There are no men like me. There is only me.

Seriously, Blogging is Your LONG Game

Published December 28, 2016 in Blogging , Business , Philosophy - 0 Comments
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I have to admit that this post from The Daytime Renegade got me down more than a bit. I read it before Christmas, but it took me some time to formulate my thoughts in reaction to it. An excerpt:

I know that if you don’t promote or believe in yourself, no one else will but my God man, over the Internet, anybody can say they’re anything! Why should you listen to anyone or swallow advice whole without thinking critically?

There are people who pass the sniff test, of course–professional athletes and trainers, business people and parents–who have a proven record of success, have clearly thought their ideas through, and show themselves, warts and all. Take them more seriously.

And maybe that’s the way forward. My problem with blogging is this: I don’t think I really have any great insights into anything.   

I’m not saying this to get sympathy, because that’s pathetic. I am just being honest and self-reflective.

I harbor no illusions about being particularly good at anything or writing useful “self-improvement” type stuff. I have a very short track record of proven success, and it seems silly writing as though I were THE MAN. 

So what’s next for my little on-line adventures?

I don’t know, but I am going to take a blogging hiatus and really think about what I want to do with this.

First of all, I’m honored and flattered to have been linked on that list as a successful business person. At least I’m good at playing one on the Internet!

However, I think Daytime Renegade is using the wrong metrics to judge himself – as so many others do. And this stems mostly from ignorance of true realities – not just of blogging but of many other factors.

I’ve posted about it before, but it bears repeating: blogging is your long game. And I do mean long. There are a handful of successful bloggers who made the leap to “stardom” very quickly: Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, James Joyner, Megan McArdle, Markos Moulitsas. Want to know what they all have in common? They got started in the early days of blogging, in the 2000-2005 time frame. Blogging was new, they were early entrants, and they managed to ride the wave.

Very nearly every blogger who made it big after that period has something else in common: they all slugged it out for a very long time. Either that, or they were already famous for something else.

A prime example is Vox Day. His two blogs this year have hit a combined traffic metric of over four million page views per month. That’s a huge amount of traffic – more than some “major” news outlets get. But he didn’t get there overnight. His blog has been around since roughly 2001. I know. I was reading it very occasionally then – mostly on the occasions that Instapundit linked to it. As I mentioned on my previous post on the topic, his prime blog now has roughly fifteen thousand individual posts on it (maybe more by now). That’s a lot of content for search engines to comb through, for people to link through, for new users to read through, etc.

By comparison, this will be post number 306 on this blog when it goes live. I’ve got a long way to go. I, too, was blogging in the roughly 2001 time frame – and I wish that I had continued that blog through to the present day. I am not as prolific a poster as Vox Day, and I probably wouldn’t have 15,000 posts. But I’d still have several orders of magnitude more content than I have now.

Quantity isn’t the only thing that time and persistence give you, however. They also help you build an audience – regular readers who continue to come back and read your works. Such a readership grows geometrically, not linearly. I’ll go into more details in another post later this week, but my blog traffic is up more than sevenfold from last year. That particular growth rate is somewhat high – but doubling or tripling blog readership year over year is the norm, not the exception. At those growth rates, readership eventually becomes quite high. Remember the old tale of the man who wanted one penny today, two tomorrow, four on the third day, eight on the fourth day, etc. On the 30th day his payment due is over $10 million – or four million page views.

There is another thing that happens over time. You set yourself apart from those who lack persistence. Very few bloggers are still blogging after one year. Even fewer are still blogging after five years. Vox Day has won because he’s still blogging after fifteen years – a feat that puts him in the company of perhaps a few hundred other bloggers worldwide. What special skill did he require to achieve that? None – only persistence.

[To be clear, I’m not claiming that persistence is the only skill that made Vox Day’s blog so popular; many other skills contributed to that feat. Rather, it is the only skill that made his post count so high. As I’ve already explained elsewhere, that does indeed have a massive impact on blog traffic.]

As Christopher Lansdown mentioned when he interviewed me earlier this week, very few highly successful people are young. Most of them don’t achieve true success until their late forties or early fifties. Why? Because success often requires many years of hard slogging, setbacks, persistence, and getting back on your feet.

Blogging is an extremely useful marketing tool. But for most people it’s not a short term one. The short term payoff is almost always low – and usually trivial or negligible. But even low payoff blogging often becomes very useful in the long run.

I would offer three more thoughts to Daytime Renegade as he reconsiders his blogging goals.

First, as with so many other things in life, blogging success follows a power law curve. My 2016 levels of blog traffic are pretty low (I’ve had considerably more traffic in the early years of blogging). Even so, they probably put me in the top 15% or so of all bloggers. At a guess, I would wager that 3,000 to 5,000 page views a month probably put you in the top 10%. 10,000 to 15,000 page views a month probably put you in the top 5%.

What’s the point? Compared to all other bloggers out there, Mr. Daytime Renegade, you are probably far more successful than you realize. In one sense that’s depressing. But in another sense, it should be inspiring. Because you, too, can at least double your blog traffic in 2017. In fact, you can probably increase it by a factor of 5 to 10 – which would move you far further up that chain. Unlike many of the bloggers you’ve already left far behind, you have not yet reached your peak – especially if you remain persistent. You can climb much further up the charts.

Second, you are overrating the value of originality and your own unique insights. You feel like none of your thoughts are new – but this is precisely because of all the time you spend reading: reading books, reading news, reading other blogs. You make the mistake of assuming that your readership is already familiar with all of the ideas you’re familiar with, because of course everyone else has read all the stuff you read. Doesn’t everybody?

In a word, no. Even other highly intelligent, highly educated people haven’t read everything you have. They can’t. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs on the Internet today. Roughly 1,000 new books are published every day on Amazon, with roughly five million already available in their Kindle catalog. Nobody can possibly read all of that, even if they’re independently wealthy and all they ever do is read. As I’ve said before, originality is overrated. To perfectly illustrate the point, even that post wasn’t original – and yet I’ve gotten direct feedback from readers who found it extremely useful and had never thought about it in those terms before.

You have knowledge of value to your readers, even if it isn’t new and insightful. Most major bloggers aren’t passing on their own major insights – they’re passing on insights they’ve read elsewhere. Occasionally they’ll ad some insight or synthesis of their own, but mostly not. And I don’t mean that disrespectfully to them. True originality and insight is rare. Fortunately, it’s also usually unnecessary.

Finally, but perhaps most relevant… I have followed you on Twitter, Gab, and other social media for months. In that time, we’ve actually interacted quite a lot – and I’ve enjoyed it. Even so, I had no idea you even had a blog until my wife pointed out this particular post to me. I am not alone.

Morgon tires of hearing me say it, but she also knows it’s true: the single largest problem, by far, with all of our small businesses right now is that too many people don’t even know we exist. It is the single biggest problem for this blog as well – and yours. Unless you have the money for a major marketing blitz a la Disney or a major party Presidential campaign, the only cure for that problem is time and persistence. Word of mouth works, and it works well… but it’s agonizingly slow.

Personally, I’m glad to see that there are new posts on your blog already, and that this post doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Here’s to 2017 and beyond, to exponential growth, and to persistence!

A Conversation with Christopher Lansdown

Published December 27, 2016 in Interviews , Lyonesse , Silver Empire - 0 Comments
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Fellow author Christopher Lansdown very graciously invited me to join him on his YouTube channel to discuss, among other things, Short Stories and Lyonesse. I had to put him off for a few days due to losing my voice to a cold and the Christmas holiday itself. Last night we finally managed to sit down together. I had a blast talking with Chris. The one complaint that I have is, I suspect, the largest one you’ll have, too. The conversation ran kind of long. Er, maybe a LOT long, at two and a half hours. I hope that I prove interesting enough to hold your attention that long.

View the video at the embed below.

Shady Rays – PRODUCT REVIEW

Published December 22, 2016 in Product Reviews - 2 Comments
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As my wife will happily tell you, I have a problem with sunglasses. Actually, she’ll quickly tell you that I have three problems with sunglasses.

First, I’m a freaking vampire. I wear sunglasses almost all the time when I’m outside. I’m not quite that guy who wears them even in the dark. But I’ll wear them even when it’s cloudy, especially if it’s that nasty kind of cloudy that almost feels like every way you look is glare. I have sensitive eyes, and it’s actually painful to not wear them. I spent most of my life wearing glasses with special UV coatings. Then I had LASIK done. I’m pretty sure my eyes just adapted to having the UV coating. So now I wear sunglasses.

But I’m also kind of bad about losing them. Every 12-24 months or so I’ll lose a pair of sunglasses. Just poof, gone, no idea what happened to them. But I’m not quite as bad about losing them as I seem. My third problem exacerbates the issue: I have four children. My oldest is about to turn seven. In those seven years, my children have broken about three times as many pair as I’ve lost.

In short, I go through a lot of sunglasses.

Until now, my solution has been to always buy the dirt cheap sunglasses from Wal-Mart. If they won’t survive long anyway, at least I’m not spending much money on them. I usually spend between $15 and $20 a pair, depending on current prices, and buy about 1-2 pair a year. So it’s not a ridiculous expense. At least I’m not spending $300 on a pair of Ray-Bans.

Enter Shady Rays. I became aware of the company through Twitter ads. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever bought anything based on a Twitter ad. But this goes to show you how important it is to find your audience. I was the right guy – the absolute right guy – to respond to this ad. The ad was simple and pushed two things:

  • Two pair of sunglasses for the price of one (normally $45 a pair) with a special discount code.
  • Lifetime replacement of any pair of sunglasses if they’re broken – or if they’re lost!

I saw the ad a few months ago. All I needed to do was wait for my last pair of sunglasses to die. About six weeks ago, they did. My 10 month old daughter broke them. Snap. So I dug up the promo code and hit their web site.

I found the sunglasses pictured above, which approximately resemble the style I’ve been getting for some time. I punched in my discount code for two pair, entered my credit card number, and opted to pay $6 for expedited shipping. Hey, man, my eyes were hurting. And it was only six dollars. If I’d chosen slow shipping, it would’ve been free.

The fine print quickly informed me that there is a limit to their replacement guarantee. They will only replace any individual pair of sunglasses twice. So with my two purchased pair, that would mean a limit of six sunglasses total. Also, it’s unclear if I will have to pay shipping costs for replacement pair or not. I suspect that I will have to. Unless shipping costs are outrageous, I can probably live with that. Worst case, I’ll still be paying about the same per pair of sunglasses as I’ve been paying.

A few days later my two pair of sunglasses arrived. And I can tell you this: they’re far sturdier in build quality than the cheap sunglasses I’ve been getting. They’re quite comfortable, especially after a few days to break them in. I have yet to break or lose a pair, so I can’t yet tell you how well they live up to their promises. But I can promise you that with my history I will break or lose a pair within 24 months. When I do, I’ll give an update and let everyone know how it goes. Worst case, I got two new sunglasses for approximately the same price as every other pair I’ve bought in the last five years – but with better build quality. I think these will take longer to break – although perhaps not to lose.

And so far I’m extremely happy with these sunglasses. They have a wide range of styles, so odds are good you can find a pair you like. If you’re in the market for new sunglasses, you might want to check them out.

Russia Tests Anti-Satellite Weapon

Published December 21, 2016 in Military , Science , Space , Technology - 0 Comments
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Who shot down DMSP-13?

CNN tells us tonight that Russia has recently tested an anti-satellite weapon.

The US tracked the weapon and it did not create debris, indicating it did not destroy a target, the source said.

The Russian test, coming as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House next month, could be seen as a provocative demonstration of Moscow’s capability in space.

Russia has demonstrated the ability to launch anti-satellite weapons in the past, including its Nudol missile.

Emphasis is mine, and not in the original article. I remain suspicious that DMSP-13 was shot down by the Russians, although it is clearly unconfirmed at this point. Nevertheless, we know that Russia and China both badly want anti-satellite technology. They have invested quite a bit of money and time into various technologies for it. They know quite well that US space technology puts them at a huge strategic disadvantage. Both nations desperately want to eliminate that advantage if at all possible.

CNN strongly implies that Putin used this test to demonstrate capability and intimidate the incoming President Elect. I remain convinced that Russia has done so before, more than once. I have zero doubt that they will do so again.

What’s the right move for the US? Developing countermeasures is expensive and clunky, so that’s probably what we will do. What we should do is focus on lowering launch costs so that we can replace satellites so cheaply that destroying them is of little gain. The current “commercial space race” is already meeting success on that front. We should do all we can to speed the process. Of course, a little bit of space infrastructure wouldn’t hurt, either.

Lyonesse Kickstarter FUNDED!

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Thank you to all of our backers for helping us to get our subscription SciFi & Fantasy short story service, Lyonesse, fully funded! Thanks to your help, we can ensure a minimum payment to each of our launch authors. As a bonus reward this morning, we’re offering up this piece of art done by my sister-in-law for the Kickstarter campaign.

If you haven’t contributed yet, don’t fret! There’s still time! You can contribute now! Remember, a mere $7 gets you a full year subscription. That’s at least 52 stories! Get your subscription now and spread the word! Your friends will want in on this, too. We’d love to hit our stretch goal and pay our authors even more. Given the amazing stories in this collection, they certainly deserve it.

Authors – there’s still time to contribute! See our submission guidelines for more information!

The Secret Kings

Published December 19, 2016 in Horror , Science Fiction - 0 Comments
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Dear readers, several of you have signed up to be alpha readers for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I am sorry to say that the second draft is not yet ready. I promise that I will put it into your hands as soon as possible. There are several reasons it isn’t ready yet. One is that my editor, the esteemed Mrs. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, has been busy finishing up a prior commitment. The good news is that she is now finished with that commitment. The better news is that as a result of that, today my friend Brian Niemeier has released the third book in his Campbell Award nominated and Dragon Award winning series, “The Soul Cycle.” Book three, The Secret Kings, is available today for Kindle.

Alas, I have not yet read this book and so cannot offer a full review of it yet. The reasons for that are the same as the other reasons that I have not yet finished the second draft of Post Traumatic Stress. Please do not think that it is Mrs. Wright’s fault nor Mr. Neimeier’s fault. Indeed, I have been tremendously busy for the last six weeks or so. On top of that, I’ve spent roughly two of those weeks out of town – first attending a memorial for my late grandmother and then later on a rare and much needed family vacation. On top of all that, I’ve also been quite sick, first with about three weeks of bronchitis and now with a rather rough cold.

Finally, I encouraged Mrs. Wright to finish Brian’s work first – both because adhering to prior commitments is the right thing to do and also because Brian marches to much tighter writing and publishing deadlines than I do.

For all that, I offer my deep apologies to Brian for not having a review ready. I plan to remedy that before the month is out. Furthermore, I now have a very rich collection of excellent notes from Mrs. Wright and from my own wife on Post Traumatic Stress. I’m rather happy with the first draft, but I can assure you that the second draft will be far better as a result of her input and will be worth the wait. In the meanwhile, I suggest that you pick up a copy of The Secret Kings. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, start at the beginning with Nethereal and its Dragon Award winning sequel, Souldancer.

Luke Cage Season 1 – TV REVIEW

Published December 7, 2016 in Superheroes , Television - 0 Comments
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lukecageI know, I’m a bit behind the times. But earlier this week I finally finished watching Season 1 of Luke Cage.

I entered the show with high expectations. I was never a regular reader of the comics, but I’d read enough of them to know that the character was actually interesting. Marvel and NetFlix had so far done a good job with the characters they’d brought to the small screen. I had faith that they could continue their winning streak. Also, I’d seen a preview of their version in the half season of Jessica Jones that I’d watched previously, and I liked what I saw.

Now… here’s where I need to admit that my expectations were somewhat tempered. I liked Luke Cage. I liked David Tenant’s villain. The writing quality on Jessica Jones was high. The production quality continued to be top notch. But I have yet to finish the show (I’ve seen about half of the first season). Why?

Because I can’t stand the main character. I’ve mentioned this to friends who like the show. Some of them informed me that her decision to “not be a hero” at the beginning was a strong part of the character arc. Fine, I can buy that. I’ve done similar things with my own characters. That’s not the problem. The problem is that Jessica herself is a despicable human being with almost no redeemable traits. It’s been in vogue for the last few decades for critics and writers to insist that characters with no flaws are boring and two dimensional. And they are correct. But so are characters with no virtues, and that’s how I felt about Jessica.

With all that said… I did rather like their portrayal of Cage. So I skipped the last half of Jessica Jones and went straight into Luke Cage.

Warning to anyone else who might follow my lead: I am still slightly confused about where Cage fits into the timeline. It feels like it must take place after Jones. If so, then I clearly missed the part where Luke is sent to prison and loses his bar. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a prequel? I honestly can’t really tell. This isn’t the fault of the show. It’s my fault for not watching the entirety of the previous series.

So I spent a bit of the first episode or two confused before I decided to just forget what I’d seen in Jones and follow Luke Cage as its own separate entity. That proved to be the right choice. It’s a strong show. The main character is quite interesting. He’s flawed enough to have a real arc, but also has strength (of character, not merely of body) and virtue. The setup of the show really drew me in. The supporting characters are interesting, especially the dichotomy between the dual antagonists: the sleazy druglord Cottonmouth and his Councilwoman cousin Mariah.

But those aren’t even the best parts of the show. Indeed, what really sets the show apart and makes it special is the way it absolutely nails race in America. And I don’t mean in an SJW way, or in a conservative way. This show is one of the most brutally honest takes on race – from all sides – that I’ve seen in a long time.

Luke Cage features police who are scared to go into black neighborhoods, and black neighborhoods who are scared of police. We see way the culture binds together against injustice (both real and perceived) – and the way that corrupt politicians stoke the flames in order to exploit those injustices for personal gain. It shows the very real ways in which living in that world holds someone down, but it’s not afraid to show the very real ways in which residents of that world contribute to their own prisons.

Yet at the same time each character has something crucial that Jessica Jones lacked: dignity. The show treats its characters with respect. Even the villains have clear motivations that – while despicable – are also understandable. Characters make mistakes, but they’re very human mistakes that you identify with. None of these characters – good or bad – has an easy life. And all of them – good and bad – have moments of honor, dignity, and even redemption. All the while, it tells a compelling and interesting story.

The show does exhibit one flaw, however, and it’s a doozy. The pacing is sloooooooooooooooow. Way too slow. As good as the show is, it probably should have been told in about 10 episodes instead of the 13 we got. Maybe it should even have had fewer. The first few episodes are the worst offenders, and the show does pick up a bit after that. Even so, it’s never what you’d call a particularly fast pace.

Worse, there’s no good reason for this. NetFlix continues to insist on the HBO/Showtime/BBC model of about 13 episodes per season. But it’s unconventional distribution model should free it from that constraint entirely. How many episodes should a NetFlix season have? As many as it takes to tell a good story – no more and no less. They are under no pressure to fill advertising time, no true “seasonal” constrains like network and cable TV traditionally has. They already release the shows whenever they feel they’re ready, without adhering to traditional release schedules.

The pacing issues of the show are a completely unforced error on NetFlix’s part. But at least for me, it was also the only real drawback of an otherwise most excellent show. Still, it’s enough to drop an entire star off the rating, taking this from a five star show down to the final four stars that I give it. If Marvel’s NetFlix shows are your kind of thing, you will probably enjoy Luke Cage. But you may have to push yourself through the slow bits.

Lyonesse Update and Author Spotlight – Cheah Kai Wai

Published December 5, 2016 in Fantasy , Lyonesse , Science Fiction , Silver Empire - 0 Comments
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logo-01Thank you to all who have contributed so far to the Lyonesse kickstarter project! As of this morning we’re more than two thirds of the way to our goal! If you haven’t already, stop by and contribute. A $7 contribution gets you an entire year’s subscription – including at least 52 stories (one per week, plus the occasional bonus story) from some of the most amazing up and coming science fiction and fantasy authors. We’ve got some great stuff on deck for our first quarter, and I can’t wait to start sharing these stories with readers. Speaking of our great up and coming authors, today I’d like to spotlight Cheah Kai Wai.

benjamincheahI first became aware of Cheah Kai Wai when I read his story Flashpoint: Titan in Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War: Volume X. The most excellent story intrigued me in its own right. I found it extra fascinating, however, for personal reasons. It featured a scenario quite similar to my own contribution to that anthology (The Fourth Fleet). Yet he took it in a completely different direction and made it a wholly different story. Many (myself included) would argue he actually made it a better story, as evidenced by the Hugo nomination it received.

Flashpoint: Titan was a great story. His contribution to Lyonesse, if I may say so, is leagues better. We Bury Our Own blew me away when I read it, and it will do the same to you. I won’t go into to much detail because you really don’t want to know too much going in. Let me just say, “science fiction battle angels.” It’s every bit as awesome as that makes it sound – but it’s also got a depth to it that might catch you well off guard.

I believe he also has a novel forthcoming from Castalia House, which I look forward to with great interest. Cheah Kai Wai is definitely a young author to watch.

Lyonesse – Making Short Fiction Great Again

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logo-01The Lyonesse Kickstarter is now live! Drop by and help us Make Short Fiction Great Again!

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

Lyonesse Author Spotlight – Jonathan Ward

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It’s time to meet another of the authors whose stories you’ll be reading after you purchase your Lyonesse subscription. We’ve already met met Dean Abbott and Anya Ow. Today we meet Jonathan Ward. In the words of his Amazon.com bio:

jonathanwardJonathan is a science-fiction, horror and fantasy writer hailing from the sprawling urban metropolis of Bedford. He has wanted to be an author since the age of eight, though it’s questionable whether his writing talents have improved since then. When not writing he can be found reading a good book, out exploring new places, or in the pub being sarcastic to his closest friends.

outliersMr. Ward has a rather extensive back catalog of books. His latest novel, Outliers, is set in a world where a new drug is giving people extraordinary talents and abilities. Meanwhile, clandestine groups fight for power. It’s the first part of what promises to be a fascinating new series.

His Lyonesse submission, Number 43, tells the tale of a man augmented chemically and mechanically by a mad scientist. As he reaches the point of madness, he also fights for his freedom. It’s a dark and gritty tale that veers almost into the horror side of science fiction, and you’ll find it quite intriguing.