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Book review: Alt. History 102 anthology

Posted on by David Wailing

alt-history-102Alt. History 102 is the second ‘alternative history’ anthology from the same stable as the bestselling Future Chronicles series. Curator Samuel Peralta has compiled a range of stories from twelve speculative fiction authors, inviting them to imagine worlds where our established history travelled along a different path. The results are varied and fascinating!

I was offered an Advance Review Copy of this anthology and was intrigued by the premise. Parallel world stories typically blend the historical and science fiction genres, but there can also be a lot of fun imagining how our present-day society would be if things had gone differently.

Not all of these stories were as satisfying for me as they could have been, but the eclectic range means every reader will find a tale they enjoy. Here are my thoughts on each.

The Most Beautiful Woman by Jennifer Ellis is a strong start to the anthology. Many alternative histories revolve around Adolf Hitler, but this focuses on inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr undertaking a mission to spy on, seduce and ultimately assassinate the Führer. I was drawn in by some very believable writing and characterisation, becoming fascinated by a historical figure I had never heard of before.

Requiem by Will Swardstrom tells of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart staging a daring rescue of Marie Antoinette from the horrors of the French Revolution – surely one of the greatest one-line pitches ever! Structured as musical acts and narrated by the closest thing the eccentric composer has to a friend, this is another exciting adventure that made me want to look closer into real historical events to learn more of the backstory.

Diablo Del Mar by Artie Cabrera takes an equally famous figure, Christopher Columbus, and plunges him into a swashbuckling saga involving secret cults, sea monsters, UFOs and ultimately an alien world. Despite such heady ingredients, this was too dense a mixture for me to digest comfortably. It was also frustratingly open-ended with regard to Columbus’s fate, feeling like the prelude to further adventures rather than a self-contained tale.

Whack Job by Rysa Walker was equally frustating in the sense of clearly being part of an existing book series, making it difficult to follow in places. The sheer volume of historical research into axe murdereress Lizzie Borden was also wearying, and although the characters’ workmanlike approach to time travel felt believable, it also plodded along at times. But fans of temporal twists may find it more engaging.

Drought by J.E. Mac is set in a Los Angeles where fresh water is more valuable than oil, and a father and daughter become entangled with those prepared to murder for it. For some reason it was easy to visualise this as an Eighties sci-fi action movie, complete with crazy nightclubs, handsome traitors, smooth corporate villains and a climactic gun battle resulting in a huge special effect. So all pretty enjoyable if you grew up on those sorts of films, like I did!

The Elissiad by Asha Bardon combines an alternative post-Roman city with a ‘Chariots of the Gods’ storyline, where crashed aliens have restructured society using advanced technology. Told with lots of detail and imagination, there are mythical and romantic qualities to this story, and it’s no surprise that the author has made academic studies of this ancient period.

The Tesla Gate by Drew Avera shows electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla obsessed with creating a time machine using Edwardian technology. He is directly inspired by Mark Twain and aided only by the mysterious lady Alokin, seemingly a figure of his imagination. This fantastic and superbly told premise might have been my favourite story, if not for another open-ended conclusion and a lack of revelation about Alokin’s true nature.

The Black Network by Adam Venezia is a story told with such economical writing, down-to-earth characters and realistic situations that it hardly feels like an alternative world at all, and was a joy to read. The storyline follows how ordinary folks challenge the powers-that-be by secretly building a rival computer network. However, as with others in this collection, for me it was let down by an inconclusive ending and lack of dramatic impact.

The Visitation by Hank Garner has a ‘Man Who Fell To Earth’ vibe, featuring a tale of an unearthly stranger walking among us. The story’s structure, a yarn told in a bar to an inquisitive journalist, works very well and is only let down by becoming a little too heavy-handed as it progresses. But there are lots of nice touches along the way related to the changes that have been made to this timeline, and also a pleasing twist at the end.

The Finest Mask by J.J. Brown is set in a believably disturbing future, blighted by animal extinctions and rampaging diseases. Here, everyone wears a mask to hide their scarred skin, and a genetic engineer is on a quest to find someone whose genes might hold the key to curing future infections. Although a wonderful example of bleak dystopian writing, this is another story that fizzles out without any conclusive pay-off.

The Blackbird Sings by Therin Knite has similarities to Drought in that it involves a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles and has the feel of an action movie. Here, a timeline altered by a Soviet nuclear strike in 1983 is outlined by news headlines, forming the backdrop to a mission by cybernetically enhanced agents. This story’s conclusion is more satisfying and ties neatly into the underlying theme of survival through technology.

The Locked Web by Alex Roddie concludes the anthology on another high point. This parallel present-day UK is still in the grip of the Cold War and computers have never evolved much beyond the early Eighties. The disabled protagonist and his family are very believable and engaging, although sometimes the differences between our timeline and this one are underlined a little bluntly. It’s still more than enough to make you grateful to live in our internet-dependent world!

In summary, this anthology is an excellent example of how varied ‘What if?’ stories can be. There’s no shortage of imagination, enthusiasm and talent amongst each of these authors. Naturally some appealed to me more than others, and in some cases I think more development was needed to ensure plotlines had the big finish they deserved. There is still an enormous amount to enjoy and plenty of food for thought, which is the mark of successful speculative fiction.

Alt. History 102 is available in Kindle format from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Update Fake Kate – Free eBook Download

Posted on by David Wailing

Fake Kate coverSome good news for anyone who bought my novel Fake Kate in the past. You can now update the eBook and download the second edition from Amazon, free of charge!

Everyone who bought Fake Kate since 2011 should have received an email from Amazon explaining how to do this. For those who didn’t, here’s the instructions:

1: On Amazon, select the Your Account tab on the menu bar.

2: From the menu, click on Manage Your Content and Devices. (You may have to log into your Amazon account.)

3: In Your Content, use the search bar to find Fake Kate or select it from the list.

4: At the far right of the entry for Fake Kate, you will see a button called Update Available. Click this and then the Update button.

5: The second edition of the eBook will be downloaded to your device, replacing the old version.

For anyone who has not bought the book, the price on Amazon will be kept low at 99p / 99c for the rest of January.

Find out more about Fake Kate.

Fake Kate (Second Edition) FREE 1-5 January 2016

Posted on by David Wailing

Fake Kate teaser V3a

Kate has vanished! Determined to find her, her sister Belinda must pretend to be her. Go on her dates, hang out with her friends, live her entire life.

Only to discover Kate had been faking too, for a very long time…


My novel Fake Kate has been republished on Amazon as a second edition. The new version of the book is 27,000 words shorter and has been thoroughly edited.

To promote this new version, you can download the eBook of Fake Kate from Amazon for FREE from 1st to 5th January 2016.

To download from Amazon in your country, go to http://smarturl.it/fakekate

Remember, you don’t need a Kindle to read an Amazon eBook. For a list of links for free e-reader apps and software, see my Free downloads page.

Find out more about Fake Kate.

Auto free promo and Auto 2 publication

Posted on by David Wailing

Auto2  teaserOn Monday 23 November, my new novel Auto 2 will be released on Amazon as a Kindle eBook.

Auto 2 is the second full-length novel in the Auto Series, following on from Auto which was published in 2013.

To tie in with this new publication, Auto will be available for FREE from Monday 23 to Friday 27 November.

You can download both books using these links which will take you to your country’s Amazon store:

Auto: http://smarturl.it/auto1

Auto 2: http://smarturl.it/auto2

Please note that Auto will not be free and Auto 2 not available before Monday 23 November.

For readers without a Kindle, you can download a free app to read Amazon eBooks on your smartphone or tablet:

Find out more about the Auto Series

Cover and Blurb for Auto 2

Posted on by David Wailing


Digital detective Joanna O’Donnell’s investigation into a dangerous hacktivist group has ended with her partner dead.

But death is no longer the end. Your auto can keep running after you’ve gone, interacting with those you left behind. So Greg Randall’s auto – Greg A – lives on as a digital echo of the man Joanna loved. The man she got killed.

Joanna discovers Greg A holds the key to the catastrophic revolution the hacktivists have planned. When every auto in the world will betray its user, exposing all secrets publicly on the internet.

A revolution that history will call the First Auto War…


Auto 2 is the second full-length novel in the Auto Series and will be available for the Kindle soon.

To be informed on publication day, sign up to the mailing list.

Find out more about the Auto Series.

Festival of Drabbles 2015: My First Drabble

Posted on by David Wailing

FestivalofDrabblesFINALEveryone knows what drabbles are by now, right? Stories that are exactly 100 words long. Dead easy to write, you can knock out half a dozen before breakfast. Easy-peasy.

That was pretty much my view on drabbles, until I started trying to write them. This was in 2012, when BookHippo (formerly Indie Book Bargains) started including a 100-word story in its daily email listing free and discounted eBooks. Indie authors saw this as a new platform for writing and it quickly took off, leading to a drabble renaissance over the last few years.

I decided to have a crack at this and that’s when I discovered how tricky it can be. It’s not just keeping your story to precisely one hundred words, it’s making sure there’s a proper story in the first place and not just a random piece of writing. There has to be some kind of plot, some degree of characterisation and, most importantly, an ending with impact. All much easier to achieve in novel form!

I was still pleased with the first drabble I wrote for BookHippo. With hindsight, I can see it betrays my obsession with the self-publishing phenomenon which I had become part of only a year before. I had thought I was being original by making it dialogue-only, only to discover this was a standard trick for drabblists!


“Babe, open the handcuffs now, I’ve had enough for one night.”

“I found out about you and that bitch off the forum.”

“Wh-what? Who do you mean?”


“But… she’s just a fan of my erotic poetry eBooks!”

“And your bedroom. She left her Kindle behind.”

“Babe, she means nothing to me, she’s just helping with my writing!”

“I’ll bet she is.”

“Look, these handcuffs are hurting my ankles, let me go and we’ll… um… why are you putting lube on that Kindle?”

“Open wide.”

“What? NO!”

“They say everyone’s got a book inside them, don’t they?”


Since then, I’ve had a lot of fun writing drabbles. I’m certainly not the most prolific drabblist, but every so often it’s a joy to craft something short and punchy, especially as a way to take a break from longer works. I was very pleased when one was chosen to be featured in an online drabble magazine in both Polish and English, and I’ve even experimented with writing a five-part drabble story.

This post is part of the Festival of Drabbles 2015, a week-long celebration of drabbles and the art of drabble writing including some of the finest drabblists in the world.

Blog Tour: Famous Animals by Katie Stewart

Posted on by David Wailing

Sir Winston ChurchmousesmallKatie Stewart is both author and artist, and has combined these talents in her latest book, Famous Animals. This is a wonderful combination of humour and history, giving well-known human faces a counterpart in the animal kingdom.

I own a copy of this book which is permanently on my coffee table. I am frequently picking it up to admire the gorgeous art and chuckle at the puns! The chap to the right, for example, is of course Sir Winston Churchmouse. Brilliant!

As part of her blog tour, Katie writes about the help she received finding inspiration for her fantastic characters.

When ‘Thanks’ Is Not Enough

They say the hardest part of writing a book is doing the blurb. In my case, the acknowledgements always prove just as difficult. How can you possibly condense all the help you get on a book into a few lines?

In the case of Famous Animals, it was especially hard. Once I had come up with the original idea of Luciano Pavaratti and spent a few sleepless nights trying to think of a list of other famous people I could turn into animals, I realised I was running out of ideas. My list was very male-heavy and I wasn’t going to have enough to make a book. For a while, I considered maybe just making a calendar, but I was sure a book was the best idea. So I went where all good writers go when they need help – to the internet.

Now, there are internet groups and there are internet groups. Some are good and some have more trolls than a slimy hole in the side of a mountain. You have to be careful where you utter the words ‘I need help.’ Fortunately, I belong to a wonderful group where, I am happy to say, I have never met a rude or offensive person. Conversations are fun and informative and everyone is pleasant. That place is the UK Kindle Users Forum. Being British, they love their puns, so when I asked for some suggestions of famous people that could be turned into animal puns, I was inundated with brilliant suggestions. I got so many ideas, in fact, that I had enough to do this first book plus a couple more!

Interestingly, some people came up with the same suggestions as others, missed in previous posts, causing a little light-hearted banter about who could claim credit. (I would just like to confirm for the record though, that I had thought of Joan Aardvark before either Kath or David!)

Not only did the group offer their help with the names, they also offered something else, something that was invaluable in keeping me going – their interest and encouragement. Often when you explain what your latest project is, reactions can be little more than, “Oh, that’s nice.” With this, though, I was made to feel that the idea really did have merit, that I wasn’t totally wasting my time carrying on with it. Every author needs that kind of support.

Something else that came out of discussions with this group was the way the book evolved. At first, I’d thought it would be just a book of the illustrations, an ornate joke book for a coffee table. That might have worked, but would have been best in a large-sized, glossy format and the cost of producing that would have been prohibitive. It was suggested by a few people on the forum that making it into a book for children would be better – with information about both the animal and the person. That way children would learn a little history, a little biology and appreciate the humour of the illustration. Adults would enjoy the humour, too. A win-win situation. So that’s what the book is – a humorous, historical, biographical nature book, a conundrum for librarians everywhere to solve before they can shelve it!

Like the Little Red Hen, I kept calling for help, but unlike the Little Red Hen’s so-called friends, these lovely people kept answering the call. Hence, I have been on a blog tour with my little book and many of the blogs I’ve visited have been those of KUF members, like this one (thanks, David).

Cover8x10smallFinally the folks at KUF did the ultimate in encouragement – they bought my book. Not all of them, of course, but quite a few. They bought my book, shared it on Facebook, retweeted it. They were and are wonderful and I only hope that I can repay each and every one of them someday. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a great place to hang out with writers, head over to KUF. As long as you didn’t come out of a slimy hole in a mountain, you’ll be made very welcome.

Famous Animals is available to order from Amazon and Book Depository.

Find out more on Katie Stewart’s blog. You can browse, buy and even commission original artwork and book covers from Katie at Magic Owl Design.

The Coming of the Auto Age (Part 1)

Posted on by David Wailing

Auto Age 1

We are currently living in the Digital Age, where the ever-present internet gives our entire lives an online dimension. This is also known as the Social Age, since we rely on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate.

Already, there are signs we are moving towards the IoT (Internet of Things) Age – where ordinary parts of the real world, the stuff of our everyday lives, become ‘smart’ and connected online. Our televisions, cars and homes can all now talk to us via the internet.

But what’s next?

Within the next decade or so, we will find ourselves in the Auto Age. This is a time when you no longer have to think about how you interact with the world via technology. It’s all done for you, automatically. At the heart of your life will be an ‘auto’ – a super-app that knows every aspect of your life and can mimic your behaviour, representing you online.

When writing the fictional Auto Series, I have taken inspiration from many current news stories and articles about developing technology. More than once, I’ve invented something that I considered imaginary and futuristic, only to read about it on the news or see it on sale!

This series of blog posts looks at some examples of where the Auto Age is clearly being developed in the present day.

Digital Assistants

What was once, not too long ago, a truly science fiction concept is now fact. Voice-activated digital assistants have replaced the concept of ‘robot butlers’ and become artificial companions, always ready to respond to our questions and demands.

Siri, Cortana and Google Now are the three most common systems, since they are tied into the platforms of Apple, Windows and Google products. Each is a digital assistant that never leaves your side, assuming you always have a smartphone or tablet. Other systems are tied into hardware, such as Amazon’s Alexa which forms the interface of their Echo speaker.

It’s easy to see that these are the forerunners of the auto – a digital assistant that automatically manages every single facet of your life. And it’s clear that this is the direction Siri, Cortana, Google Now and Alexa will all be taking in the near future.

“The common goal now is to turn your personal assistant from a ‘passive’ to an ‘active’ one, which means doing useful things before you’ve prompted it to. How? By carefully studying your behavior and pre-empting your next move before that tiny spark in your brain turns into an actionable thought. Or, in other words, becoming a fully-fledged stalker.”

Forbes – Siri Vs. Cortana Vs. Google Now: The Future of Mobile

Artificial Intuition

One thing which digital assistants and autos are not is artificial intelligence. We are still a long way off from building a computer that can think like a human. But what is possible is software that accurately mimics human behaviour patterns: artificial intuition.

Underpinning the effectiveness of this is the increasing use of data pools, which contain very specific information about millions of individuals. For example, Amazon uses algorithms to make recommendations based on each customer’s purchasing history – the more you buy, the more targeted they become. Website adverts also display products suggested by your browsing and buying habits.

This is an accepted side-effect of using the internet, something we have become accustomed to very quickly. As we all generate more and more data about ourselves, the sophistication of predictive algorithms will increase enormously.

“There will, at some point, be a dematerialised, duplicate you. While this seems sort of horrifying in a Stepford Wife-y kind of way, the difference is that instead of killing you, your replicant meta-entity, your synthetic doppelgänger will merely try to convince you to buy a piqué-knit polo shirt in tones flattering to your skin at Abercrombie & Fitch.”

FT Magazine – We are data: the future of machine intelligence

Online Life After Death

A key part of the Auto Series is that autos can continue to function after a person has died, and continue interacting with the living. A kind of electronic afterlife.

This may sound unlikely and creepy, but there are already several websites offering this service, by scanning your existing social media accounts and then copying them so they can continue after your death.

BBC Newsbeat – Eter9 social network learns your personality so it can post as you when you’re dead

This is something that has become more of a popular idea in recent years, but has yet to be accepted by the mainstream. As in many areas, Facebook is likely to change that and already has a feature called ‘legacy contact’. This memorializes the Facebook profile of the deceased and allows their friends and family to continue using it as a way of sharing information.

Mashable – You can now choose who will manage your Facebook account after you die


A universal part of life in the Auto stories is smartscreens. These intelligent monitors are everywhere, from homes to shops to vehicles. They allow people to interact directly with their own autos, which know their users’ location and always make themselves available at the nearest available smartscreen.

As TVs become smarter and voice recognition gets more sophisticated, it seems inevitable they will evolve into always-on smartscreens that act as your permanent window onto the online world. But even with modern-day TVs, caution is needed to prevent them becoming two-way windows onto your private life.

“Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing.”

The Daily Beast – Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically

Can You See The Future?

Have you come across any news stories or articles that look at our digital future?

Is there anything you think is similar to what’s described in the Auto Series?

Does modern technology excite you? Intrigue you? Frighten you?

Let me know using the contact form. Your findings could be included in future blog posts!

The Auto Series which looks at how digital technology and social media will evolve in the near future.  Find out more about the Auto Series.

Auto is available in multiple eBook formats and Auto 2 will be published later in 2015.

Cover for Escape from Auto 2

Posted on by David Wailing

escape-cover-ebookEscape is the eighth and final story in my forthcoming novel Auto 2, making this the last in the series of cover reveals. Yes, that does mean the book itself is on the way!

Most people familiar with computers will know the relevance of the Escape function, such as the Esc button on a keyboard or the X symbol in the corner of a window. It is a quick way of coming out of whatever program is currently running, and abandoning it entirely.

But what happens when you abandon ALL programs?

Nowadays, we all rely on the internet. Our ability to communicate, find information and perform tasks all now depend on being online. Losing internet access is almost as disabling as losing a physical sense like vision or hearing – it denies you a whole world of experience.

In the digital future of the Auto Series, when everyone relies on their auto, is it even possible to escape? Will it feel like you are abandoning your entire life? Who exactly are you, when your auto is taken away?

For those who have been following this series, here are all the covers for the eight stories that make up Auto 2. The cover for the novel itself will be revealed soon!


Auto 2 covers montage

Auto 2 continues the Auto Series which looks at how digital technology and social media will evolve in the near future.  Find out more about the Auto Series.

Auto is available in multiple eBook formats and Auto 2 will be published later in 2015.

Cover for Shutdown from Auto 2

Posted on by David Wailing

shutdown-cover-ebookShutdown is number seven of the eight stories which make up the forthcoming novel Auto 2.

One of the things being referenced in this cover is the infamous Blue Screen of Death. This is bound to be familiar to many computer users and is usually accompanied by a scream of anguish! These days, computers don’t tend to crash as often as they used to, but it remains the universal sign that everything has gone catastrophically wrong.

In the world of the Auto Series, technology has become far more stable and ever-present. People especially rely on their autos to manage their lives. There are a thousand things your auto takes care of without needing your input. And that’s what everyone wants – to not have to think about it.

Autos are now so interwoven into everyday life that not having an auto marks you out as a ‘nonline’. These are people who cannot access the internet – since it is illegal to be online without an auto to verify your identity. Nonlines are viewed with suspicion, since how can you trust someone if you can’t see their profile or view their timeline?

It’s everyone’s greatest fear that their auto will crash and turn them into nonlines, cutting off their connection to the digital world. This is a Blue Screen of Death that can literally bring lives to an end…

Auto 2 continues the Auto Series which looks at how digital technology and social media will evolve in the near future.  Find out more about the Auto Series.

Auto is available in multiple eBook formats and Auto 2 will be published later in 2015.

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