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My First Novel - A Tangible Reward

Like many authors, one of the questions I’m constantly asked is why I started writing. The answer is because of The Falkland’s War, a tragic event that saw many losses and injuries on both sides. I was in the Royal Navy at the time and served both aboard the carrier HMS Invincible during the conflict, and afterwards in the Queen Harbour Master’s office in Port Stanley.

Of course, as an avid reader, I’d always wanted to write. They say war changes a man, it does, but it also enabled me to begin writing. First with short stories and then on Features for various magazines.

The features included 'How To’s and interviews with the cast and stars of movies, mostly the of the martial arts movie industry – but not always. One of my favourites was with Ray Stevenson, which I did for the film Kill the Irishman. What a true gent and really nice guy. Others included Donny Yen, Sammo Hung, and Darren Shahlavi for Ip Man 2. There were many others, of course, but these are some of those that really stick in my mind.

At the same time, I was also creating short stories - mainly scifi, fantasy, and horror. I’ve now been a member of The British Science Fiction Associations Orbiter writing groups since around the mid-eighties, and I can’t recommend them enough. It’s not only an immense help in improving your work by getting feedback on it, but a great way to meet other writers. I’m pleased to say that one of them who’s work I admire, Geoff Nelder, has also become a very good friend.

On leaving school I was unfortunate in not being allowed to go to college and then university by my father, a bone of contention for many years because you needed your parents’ permission at that time – and it would have been free then. Consequently, I joined the RN 1974 and left in 2009. In 2010 a colleague's brother started a BA in Creative Writing and I decided to challenge myself by applying for the same. I was offered places at four universities and, due to prior accreditation, ended up doing an MA.

I loved the course and passed at Falmouth with a Distinction but, the big question is, did it help with my writing? Yes, because the project I created during the course became my first novel A Pride of Lions. To my delight Solstice Publishing, took the book and it became the first in The Darkening Stars series. After years of writing I'd finally achieved a tangible reward.


When Selena Dillon is caught in an assassination attempt on her planet’s ruler, she finds herself sentenced to twenty-five

years servitude in the most feared military force, the Penal Regiments. Much to her surprise she enjoys the harsh military life and is quickly selected for officer training.

But something’s wrong, worlds are falling silent. There’s no cry for help and no warning, just a sudden eerie silence. When a flotilla of ships is despatched to investigate they exit hyperspace to find themselves facing a massive alien armada. Outnumbered and outgunned the flotilla fight a rear-guard action, allowing one of their number to slip away and warn mankind.

As worlds fall in battle, and mankind’s fleets are decimated, Selena is selected to lead a team of the Penal Regiments most battle-hardened veterans, in a last-ditch attempt to destroy the aliens’ home world. If she fails then mankind is doomed. Little does Selena know that one of her crew is a psychopathic killer and another is the husband of one of his victims.

Can she hold her team together, get them to their target and succeed in the attack? Selena knows that if she fails then there will be nothing at all left to go home to.


‘However,’ continued the Judge more quietly, turning back to the accused and ignoring the rumpus, ‘it’s in my power to offer you an alternative. We’re currently upgrading the military, as we do from time to time. This allows me to offer you the option of serving in the Penal Regiments, until you either die in their ranks or discharged after 25 years’ service under their terms of contract. You each have three minutes in which to make your decisions.’

think furiously.

The Penal Regiments! They were the most feared and respected military force in all of humanity. Only the insane or desperate would even contemplate joining their ranks, and those who simply had no other choice. Those who joined had the details of their previous lives completely erased; it was as if they ceased to exist. They lost their past, family and sometimes even their personalities. If anyone actually survived the duration of their contracts they could have their faces and bodies surgically altered at the cost of the Federation, so that prior enemies and friends wouldn’t recognise them and they could live out their retirement in peace. But that was if they survived that long and very few ever did. However, Jenny mused, there were those survivors. Hope glimmered for the first time since the raid and she began to think furiously.

Suddenly she heard a voice calling for her attention.

‘Jennifer Williams, your choice?’

The time had gone and the question seemed to come from nowhere, but Jenny knew that she had no option. ‘I choose the Penal Regiments.’

The others of her team turned to stare at her with blank expressions, but she could hear their breath catching in disbelief. One by one the others chose martyrdom. As they were marched off Sam turned to stare at her in disgust. She would never forget the look on his face.

Poor Sam, she thought. You just don’t understand, do you? One day, when you’re long gone and nothing remains of you but dust blowing on the wind, our crimes will have been forgotten and I’ll be able to come back. Can’t you see that?

As for me, I’m already a survivor.

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