Facts and Fictions

Introducing Garth Owen

I shall soon be graduating from being an independent author to an independent publisher, helping other people get their books available for ebooks and seeing how they fare. The Spinneyhead brand shall be quite diverse, with entries in multiple genres.

The first author to come on board is Garth Owen. I shall be publishing Slashed, his slightly loony horror/action/comedy hybrid novella before the end of April. It’s sort of Scream meets Die Hard.

Garth writes more pulpy stuff than I do, and he tends to be a bit more graphic when it comes to scenes of sex and violence. I have high hopes for his stories. He also has a name which returns no other results for humans in a Google search. (There is an author called Garth Owen-Smith, whose book An Arid Eden: One Man’s Mission in the Kaokoveld looks interesting but is unlikely to be confused with Slashed.)

The last edits of Slashed have begun, and I shall be starting work on cover concepts soon. Then I shall be talking to other potential writers for the Spinneyhead line.

There is a Garth Owen page on Facebook. It is a little empty right now, but it shall be filling up as publication of Slashed draws closer. Use the Like button below.

Collision cooking- vaguely oriental sea bream with pak choi and soy-chilli toffee

This recipe will probably work just as well with lots of other fish. As usual, no weights, measures or times.

Courtesy of Withington’s monthly market I had two fillets of black sea bream. After removing the last of the bones I laid them in a foil envelope on a baking tray. Next in was a handful of coriander leaves and then a large chunk of ginger root cut finely. I drizzled chilli oil on them next- in lieu of chopping up a chilli I didn’t have- then soy sauce and honey and finally lemon juice. After folding the foil envelope closed it went into the oven for about 25 minutes.

About ten minutes before the fish came out of the oven I heated some oil in a flat bottomed frying pan, split the pak choi lengthwise and fried them. When I’d served them up I left the pan on the heat whilst dishing out the fish, then poured the sauce into it. It boiled impressively, thickening and caramelising. When it was sticky enough I poured it over the fish and pak choi. the fish was light and tasty and the sauce was sticky and tangy, a rather nice combination.

Blue Angel 2

He studied the blue angel, as if staring at it would make it give up its secrets.

White angels he was familiar with. He’d been documenting them for over a year. The first couple had been on his bike route to work, larger than the stencil art he usually photographed and in white, not a common colour. They were traditional looking angels- wings spread, arms reaching skywards and a halo about their head- somewhat stylised by the restrictions of cutting a pattern from paper. He photographed them, uploaded them and later tagged their locations.

More angels appeared over the following weeks, but he didn’t blog them. Same design, different places, he felt the artist was becoming lazy. Until he made a connection. At least two of the angels marked the sites of murders- the kid who was gunned down in the park because of mistaken identity and the boy shot in a chippy several years ago. A little research confirmed that other angels commemorated other deaths.

Each angel signified a life cut short. Usually murders, most since the bad days of Gunchester, though a couple dated back to grisly 19th and early 20th century events and a few marked accidents and fires. When the “Angels of remembrance” tag became a series he started getting tips. Text and multimedia messages would arrive, alerting him to angels in areas he normally didn’t visit or avoided, giving him names and dates. They all came from two numbers, whether the senders were a tagging team, one up memorialists or the same person with two phones he didn’t know. Where possible he cycled out to the site and got a photo. Occasionally he had to use the tiny multimedia image.

In time the local papers caught on to the host of stencilled angels. He got mentions as their chronicler. There was even talk of a book. He sent messages to both his contacts about this. Would they come forward, or at least send him their manifesto, did they want any of the money or would they like to name a good cause? The tip offs had kept on coming but there was no response to his questions. He went ahead and signed the deal. It wasn’t a huge advance, but the publicity would knock on as increased traffic for the blog. All good.

He knew a lot about white angels. Blue angels were another matter. There had never been an angel any colour other than white. So why this unnatural colour?

And why right outside his house?


Willard tossed the big knife back and forth, making it twirl as it flew and increasing the distance between his hands.

“I’ve read your evaluation.” he announced, “Terrified of knives. So guess what I got myself? Not so sarcastic now, are you? Not so superior.”

The others watched the exchange in silence. They knew the facts, they had to understand Willard needed stopping. But he’d been bullying them so long they were too scared.

Which left Mike, watching the blade twirl. He followed its movements, mesmerised and in a cold sweat. Then he looked up at Willard’s face and took in the sick sadistic smirk. That settled it. Willard was right. At least, Willard was partly right.

A slap of Mike’s hand changed the knife’s trajectory. Willard had hardly registered the loss of his weapon before Mike’s knuckles crushed his windpipe.

Mike stepped back, away from Willard’s grasping hands as the big man collapsed, purple faced. “I read my evaluation as well, ‘Terrified of knives, may react unpredictably.’ Always finish the sentence.” There was a nasty cut on his left hand, possibly bone deep, but this wasn’t a moment to show weakness. “If any of you fuckers knows first aid you might be able to save him. The rest of you are with me. We’ve got a war to stop.”

Collision cooking: Bacon and Egg Pie

This is about as far from collision cooking as you can get, actually. Bacon and Egg pie is a family/Cumbrian traditional recipe which can be guaranteed to taste good every time.

First, get or make your pastry. I’m not going to tell you how, if only because I cheat and use frozen pre-made pastry. Also, as usual, I’ll not be giving weights, because they’ll vary depending upon the size of the pie tin you use.

After lining the pie tin with the pastry, the first layer is bacon, obviously. I’ve often used the packs of offcuts you sometimes find in butchers, though they need a bit more preparation. It’s also worth doing a quick fry of the bacon before putting it into the pie, to get a little of the fat and water out of it.

Grate some pepper over the bacon and carefully break open the eggs and put them into the pie. Don’t fill it to the brim though, as the eggs expand a bit as they bake. This is the point where I occasionally throw a little variation into the mix and grate some mature cheddar over the eggs. As the pie bakes, the cheese melts between the eggs and creates veins of extra flavour. Of course, whenever I’m home and suggest this variation my mother gives me a look like she’s thinking of disowning me.

Put a lid on the pie and put it into the oven. If, like me, you’re a dirty rotten cheat when it comes to pastry the packet will have some guidelines for temperature. If you’re a virtuous person who makes their own pastry from scratch then you’ll also know how to bake it. I usually give it 45 minutes then test it and leave it for longer if necessary.

Bacon and Egg pie is delicious hot or cold. Cold, it goes well with tomatoes and a little mayonnaise.

One final, important point- Bacon and Egg pie is not quiche with a lid on. To even suggest that is slanderous. It’s far better than quiche.

Deadly games

The force feedback suits weren’t strictly illegal, but it was impossible to get an import licence for them. Some still made it into the country of course, and many more were kludged together from internet plans.

Every couple of months one of these DIY suits would seriously hurt or even kill a user. They would put the safety switch in the hands of an idiot or a sadist, or they wouldn’t wire one in at all.

Most of them then went and played GTA.

The view from Oklahoma

For a brief moment earlier I thought today would be the day I broke the 500 words a day average for the last thirty days, but I was just misreading the numbers on my spreadsheet.

Anyway, I’m in Oklahoma cafe, probably the place where I get the most writing done, and I thought I’d take a little break to report on the status of my current projects and my plans for what comes next.

The main project at the moment is Slashed, I’ve been working on it since before Christmas and I’m getting close to finishing it. I’m about to enter the big final showdown and I’m at 25,400 words. I don’t write long books, though I reckon some of the continuity and detail adding I’ll have to do when the first draft is finished should push the word count into the mid-30,000s. It’s an action/horror hybrid with a bit of black comedy thrown in. It’s quite violent and a bit silly. If you liked my other books you may not like this one. In fact, it’s so different to my other stories that I may use a pseudonym for it. My disreputable brother Gareth could be blamed for all my more schlocky work. Depending upon how long it takes to edit and do the cover, Slashed could be released by the end of March.

After the first draft of Slashed is done I’ll probably finish off a short story I started a couple of week’s ago. The working title is Waking With The Dead. It’s currently at about a thousand words and I reckon it’ll run to three or four when finished.

The next big project will probably be a crime story which built to work best in ereaders or browsers. It’ll focus on a murder, with a series of short tales following the event’s effect upon all the different people who are involved. The reader will be able to jump from one narrative to another as tales intersect and build up their understanding of the events based upon the route they take. There’ll be multiple starting and ending points and a few Easter egg strands which can only be accessed from within the story. It sounds more complicated when I try to explain it like this than it will probably turn out to be when I get down to it. Trust me, I have a map for it and everything. It’s probably going to be called A Death In Didsbury, partly because the previous story by that name has floundered because of problems with the theme and character motivation.

After that, I’m not sure what’s next. I should get back to the Irwin Baker series (though some of the series’ characters will be appearing in A Death In Didsbury). Or some other grand story may come to me. We shall see.

If I keep up the good work I should hit the 500 a day mark soon. I shall report back when I do.


The baby had been left on his doorstep in a basket from Tesco, wrapped in a blanket and wearing warm clothes. A folded sheet of paper stuck down the side of the baby had ‘Test yourself’ written on it. Unfolded, it had a dna sequence printed on it.

“It matches.” the doctor announced after running tests on the baby and him.

“There’s no way that baby could be mine. I haven’t had sex in two years. And I still talk to her. She’d have told me.”

“That’s not what I mean.” the doctor sighed, “The baby’s dna is a perfect match for the sheet found in the basket.”

“Well of course it is.”

“And so is yours.”


“The baby is you. You’ve been cloned.”

Words count

I have a spreadsheet set up to track how much I’m writing. I’m a little obsessive like that, and it’s a way to procrastinate whilst pretending to be productive. It tracks the word count on my current projects- there’s room for three, but I’m currently concentrating on one in particular- and works out how many words I’ve written per day, the average for the last thirty days and the average for the year to date.

As of yesterday the thirty day average is 312.27 and the year average is 293.41.

These are not the numbers you are looking for.

I want to be hitting a higher average. 1000 is desirable, 500 would be acceptable. The average has been trending upwards recently, as I’ve spent more days writing, after a fortnight in January where my muse and mojo had both deserted me. And I am getting more words down than the contemporary average on most of the days that I do apply finger to keyboard.

But I have spent my whole life being my own worst enemy and mastering the art of creative procrastination (Exhibit A- I’m writing this post rather than any of my current works-in-progress). So I have to force myself to write. Which is what I shall go away and do now.

After I’ve bought myself an Earl Grey.

And checked my email.

And Facebook.


Collision cooking: salmon stuffed peppers

I have been practising collision cooking for several years. It’s a bit like fusion cooking, though occasionally messier. But it’s also a bit more than just throwing stuff together and hoping it doesn’t explode.

This meal was one I made up recently, a case of mixing what I had in an interesting way.

Salmon fillets
Large red pepper
I won’t do exact amounts. I had two fillets and a large courgette and ended up with enough left over to make myself risotto the next day.

Skin the salmon and cut into cubes. Cut the courgette and tomato up. Put all the pieces into a bowl, sprinkle with the juice of half the lemon and add seasoning (I only added a little pepper, if I were doing it again I’d have cut up some fresh parsley and added that).

Cut the top off the pepper. Remove the stalk and cut the flesh and seeds from the inside. I also took a sliver off the bottom to give it a level base.

Place the pepper on a baking tray, fill it and put the top on. Pour some liquid into the tray- I used tea with the rest of the lemon juice, but that’s just me.

I cooked the pepper at Gas Mark 6 for around 50 minutes. This chart says that that’s about 200 Celsius. You’ll know your oven better than I do, so you may want to set a different temperature or cook for a different length of time.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Guest blog: Cole Drewes

Hounds of Heaven coverMy path of being an indie author…it isn’t as lonely as you think!

So most of you have probably been reading about the buzz of self-publishing within the last couple of years. Authors like Joe Konrath, Zoe Winter’s, and Amanda Hocking are some of the author’s I’ve kept an eye on because of two reasons. The three above with countless other authors have broken the mold of self-publishing authors (indie authors). The above authors have sold the same amount or more books than most traditional published authors and they are doing it without the backing of a large publishing company.

I wrote Hounds of Heaven two years ago. One year was spent writing and the next year editing. All of this was done while I was working a full time job, being a full time husband and a new father! I still find time to edit my novel here and there before I release it on Amazon in March! I’m excited and extremely nervous as the release of my first novel approaches! Will people hate it or will they love it? I’ve tried to edit as much as I can but I wasn’t born to edit!

Now what I find interesting is how many are quick to bash the bad novels coming out of the new self-publishing revolution. I’ll agree that many people are publishing their novels simply thinking that they’ve written something of pure genius. Why edit my novel? Why spend time on the cover or market my novel? I shouldn’t have to do any of that because my novel is that amazing! It’s this group that gives the haters ammunition against self-publishing authors.

You can subscribe to my blog at:


I’ve recently started a project through Kickstarter which is a donation website for indie projects. On the site you’ll find artists looking to fund their movie, music, or writing projects. My goal is $500 but I didn’t really start the project for the money. I saw it as a way to advertise my novel and give away some really cool gifts that won’t be available anywhere else! My kickstarter project is below:


Note This is the post Cole wrote for me as part of a blog tour. I have a post at his blog all about why I haven’t been writing as much as I should so far this year.

Kindle book review: Fifth Avenue

I found out about this book on a forum. The author was offering reciprocal reviews for anyone who would review it. Then it turned up in the top sellers list at Amazon, so I thought I’d buy it. I have not taken up the review offer, maybe I should.

The action takes place, mostly, on the eponymous Manhattan street as billionaire George Redman gears up for his biggest ever deal. His favoured daughter Celina will play an important role whilst neglected child Leana is left to her own devices. However, someone wants to scupper the deal and destroy the family. (I won’t spoiler the bad guy for you, though the Amazon blurb does.)

Throughout the book I was reminded of a sort of mini series popular in the eighties, where unpleasant things happened to unpleasant people and we were supposed to care just because they were rich. None of the characters is particularly likeable, though that may be because none of them ever develops much of a character to care about. They just lurched from one unlikely event to the next, reacting in ways that left me wondering how Redman and his nemesis could ever have become so rich whilst being so dumb and devoid of empathy.

Sometimes you can get past flat characterisation with a fast paced plot, interesting background details and neat set pieces. Sadly Fifth Avenue doesn’t supply those either. The lives of the rich and infamous are reduced to name checking expensive brands and little else, and one of the most important and dramatic scenes in the book left me unmoved. The ludicrous revenge plan which drives the whole story is equally empty and uninspiring. What could have been a key sequence- where the big deal is brokered and the battling corporations make play and counter-play, revealing and tipping each others hands- all happens offscreen whilst uninspiring melodrama continues on the page.

I didn’t enjoy this book. But the author got my money, and the book is a best seller, so perhaps I’m the one who’s doing things wrong.

On second thoughts, maybe I won’t ask for the reciprocal review.

Fifth Avenue on Amazon UK.

Fifth Avenue on Amazon US.

Some shall pass

He obviously thought it was the funniest thing since. As someone approached he'd step in their path. Then he'd move so he stayed in front of them as they tried to dodge and his victim would end up trapped against the wall.

I tried to think of a humorous way around him, but I couldn't. So, when it was my turn, I just tasered him and stepped over the twitching body.

Kindle book review- Antarctica’s Secrets: Global Warming Conspiracy

I bought this book after asking for recommendations from authors. It was only 74p (which is what Kindle books come out at in the UK store if you price them at $0.99 in the US one), though it’s gone up now. I don’t think it was worth it.

It’s a short book, but I only got a quarter of the way through before I gave up on it. This reads more like a detailed description of what the author planned to write than an actual story. There was no attempt to describe what was going on, set the scene or show the reader anything, just an ongoing stream of “And then I did this. And then I did this……” Problems with the formatting or the punctuation (probably the latter) also made the layout messy and hard to read.

All in all, this book was extremely disappointing. On the other hand, I did only pay 75p for it, so it’s not bankrupted me.

Antarctica’s Secrets: Global Warming Conspiracy- UK store, US store.

Fiction- Mia In The Snow 1

Sheba’s ears are floppy and triangular, and when she faces into the wind the airflow lifts them up and they stick out like little wings. That always makes me smile, and when we’re out in the wind I always try to get her to face the right way to make it happen. After a while she’ll give me a look- if she could talk she’d just say “Silly person, stop it.”- and go back to sniffing the snow banks.

In Summer, Sheba bounces around and lives up to the Springer part of her breed name. In winter, with freshly fallen snow halfway up her legs, she doesn’t jump so much. But she will still do funny things like sticking almost her whole head into a bank of crispy, fluffy snow just to get a better sniff of what’s underneath. When she pulls out she has a white beard and eyebrows- another thing that makes me laugh- then she huffs and shakes it off.

Maybe Sheba’s doing little doggy laughs when she looks at me. I couldn’t blame her. My boots are furry and warm, with a cage thing on the bottom with criss-crossing coils of wire to improve the grip. They’re deliberately too big, so’s I can wear big woolly socks that come up to my knees. I’m wearing Nana’s old winter coat, that I’m not big enough to fit yet, with fleeces and thermals underneath. My hat has a bobble on the top and cheek muffs that fold down and should tie under my chin, though I’m just holding them in place with my scarf. My gloves give me cartoon hands which can’t hold anything properly and I’m tugging the clear circular “flying saucer” sledge that Daddy made from a sheet of spare perspex. Even with the snow I think it took me longer to get ready than it will to walk up the hill.

* * * *

Mrs. Aiden is old. She’s always been old, as long as I’ve known her. She has grey hair and grey skin brightened by spidery red veins on her cheeks and is quite skinny, though you can’t tell that with her winter layers on. The walls of her cottage are very thick, with lots of insulation, so she can afford to keep it hot inside. Once I’m through the three doors into the kitchen I stand on the welcome mat as the snow melts and runs off me and I begin to sweat. I hold out the boxes I pulled up the hill on the sledge.

“Two dozen eggs Mia?” Mrs. Aiden looks surprised, “Are you sure you can spare them?”

“Daddy says the poo powered heating is keeping the chucks happy and they’re really laying. He also said that one of your cakes is worth at least two dozen eggs.”

“Did he now? Well he’s in luck, because I have one of my cakes just for you.” she bustles over to the far worktop and brings me back a plastic box with a firmly sealed lid. It’s heavy for its size, Mrs. Aiden’s cakes are dense, moist and very tasty. “Would you like some tea love? The kettle’s about to boil.”

I’m about to boil too, and getting out of these clothes will be too much work if I’m just going to get back into them. “No thanks Mrs. Aiden. Grandda was just starting to make lunch when I set off. It should be ready by the time I get back.”

Sheba is curled up outside the outer door. Through the double glazing I can see her tail start to wag as I open the middle door, but she doesn’t jump up until I’m outside again. I’d propped the flying saucer against the wall. I lay it in the middle of the road just where it flattens out at the top of the hill and carefully place the cake tin on it. I clamber on so the box is safely between my legs then I take the rope and twist it around both gloved hands.

From this angle it looks like the windmill on top of the fell is actually sticking out of the chimney of Mrs. Aiden’s cottage. I should tell Grandda that, he could photograph it. I lean back and then jerk my body forward. The sledge moves a little way and sinks slightly into the snow. I repeat the movement and I’m closer to the tipping point. Sheba is giving me a puzzled look. Once more and I’m moving down the hill. I lean back and pull on the rope to lift the front so I don’t shovel up snow. Sheba runs after me. Now she bounces.

The round sledge is very hard to control. It spins all the way around twice as I go down the hill and steers by climbing the snow banks and sliding back down them in a new direction. But I don’t need to guide it. The road runs downhill until it turns right at the end of our drive. I don’t make the turn and carry on onto the yard, coming to a stop just outside the door to Grandda and Nana’s house. And just in time for lunch.

* * * *

Nana and Grandda and Daddy say there used to be winters like this- and summers almost as hot as we have- before I was born. But they happen every year now, not every ten or fifteen. I asked Daddy what it was like when there was this much snow and people weren’t ready for it and he showed me some old video on the net. It was funny, but a little sad. All those people trapped away from their families because no-one had known how much snow they had to plan for.

I’ve got a globe with an animated skin and I can play hundreds and thousands of years of data back and forward on it and watch how things changed. I watched the temperature one and saw as there was less white and blue and more orange and red. If I look at it month by month I can see the cold winds of the Arctic get warmer and blow further South, bringing more snow to Britain, Northern Europe and the United States. The changes are quick, I guess I can see why those travellers were surprised by the weather.

* * * *

We live in the barn next door to Grandda and Nana’s house. The walls of the barn look like a huge puzzle, one of those boxes of blocks with 50,000 combinations but none you can work out. All the stones it’s made from are different shapes and sizes- the builders must have just picked one up and glued it into the pile wherever it fit. When they’re not coated in snow the stones are lots of shades, but mostly a sort of blue-y green-y grey, and they’re decorated with white and yellow lichen that has frilly edges and gets crispy and brittle in summer.

The roof on the South side of the barn has solar cells on it. When the sun comes out the exposed parts of the cells warm up quickly and even after snowfall like last night’s they can still clear themselves and start producing lots of electricity. The snow must have slooshed down while I was climbing the hill, because when we get back from lunch the meter in the kitchen is all green and we’re charging the batteries under the floor. When they’re full we’ll start exporting power to the grid again, so long as I don’t turn on too many lights.

I sort of remember how Daddy, and all the people who helped him, turned the barn into our house. I seem to remember standing on a plank on the muddy floor and staring up at the roof and seeing the under sides of all the tiles. It was so big at the time, but I was so small. Now I’m almost as tall as the snow drifts.

What’s sad is that I can’t remember Mummy. I can look at pictures of her, including ones where she’s holding me as a baby, and pretend I remember her. But I think that’s all it is- pretending I remember her. Daddy explained how we lost her to the flu pandemic, which happened just before we moved out of London to the Lake District. We visit “The Smoke” a few times each year. Mummy’s grave isn’t far from Auntie Jasmine’s home, so I make a point of going and leaving some flowers whenever we’re there for more than a couple of days.

* * * *

My job for the afternoon is to take down all the Christmas cards and decide how they should all be recycled, then put the pictures back on the wall. I’ve got a clever folding stepladder that I printed out at Easter when I decided that I should do more fixing of stuff around the house, and my bag of tools. I’ll need the hammer, because I’m going to bash a few more nails in and rearrange the layout.

There’s a pile of cards which should be recycled and another pile which can be reused as labels next year. Reuse, repurpose and recycle, those are the rules. We live well by them. The little clip together holders go into a plastic bag for next year and I can decide where to put the pictures.

I’m in all the pictures, of course. There’s Grandda and Nana holding me as a really little baby. Then there’s a picture of Daddy with me. The next picture is of me and Mummy, it’s the one that most makes me feel I can remember her. She’s holding me up as I try my best to put one foot in front of the other. She looks beautiful, with long black hair, big brown eyes and dark skin. I’ll never have the same skin colour, and my hair can get curly, but I do have the same brown eyes. Normally this one would be the third in line, but I want to add another picture, and there’s no room to carry on the sequence.

I use a plumb line to mark points directly below the existing nails, and a spirit level and ruler to make a horizontal mark so the new nails are level. I hammer the nails in gently and rub the marks off. Then I hang the picture of Mummy and me and get the new picture from my tool bag.

Anne is Daddy’s girlfriend. She lives in Manchester and works all over the world, so we don’t get to see her very often. The photo was taken last Summer when we climbed Scawfell, it’s of me and Anne on top of the world. Anne looks nothing like Mummy, she’s blonde and, what was the word that Grandda used? Buxom. I should look that up.

Daddy must have heard the hammering, because he’s come to investigate. He lays his hands on my shoulders as he examines the new layout. “Nice work kid.” He kisses the top of my head.

“When are we going to see Anne again?”

“In a few weeks. She thinks that’ll be the end of her contract. I’ve asked her if she’ll move up here and work on our projects. If that’s okay with you?”

“Of course it is.”

* * * *

Anne’s job is to find leapfrog technologies and work out where they’ll be most useful. Leapfrog technologies are the ones that let people get modern without having to work their way through the wasteful steps the rest of the world did. Like all the Africans going from no phones to mobiles and all the stuff that’s getting made on the 3D printing stalls in India. We met her when we attended a conference in Manchester on what could be done with 3D printers, because daddy was about to get one for his business. She showed me how to use a virtual 3D interface to sculpt things whilst he talked to a salesman about specifications. Afterwards she took us out for lunch.

At first I was jealous that Daddy was stealing my new friend, but I grew out of that.

Daddy still isn’t very good with the goggles and wands of the virtual interface, so I help him out with finishing designs. He jokes about child labour, but I like that I can help him earn a living.

The old cow shed is Daddy’s workshop. He makes stuff, whatever people need. He says he would have been a blacksmith in an earlier time, but now he gets to work with more than just iron and steel. I’m not allowed to use the lathe or CNC machines yet, and I don’t mind that. They look dangerous, I’ll put off learning how to use those.

The printers are safely away from the high speed machinery, inside their own room. One machine prints plastic and another can do metal. Metal bits need to be heat treated in a kiln to properly fuse, but then they’re almost as tough as cast metal. We make a lot of jigs for electric motor components for when people want to convert their old car to battery power. Sometimes I’ll watch the printers for ages as they create something I’ve designed, one super thin layer at a time. Daddy’s found me sleeping in there sometimes, the swoosh and buzz of the print head can be just like a lullaby.

Today I’m designing a weather vane. One of Mrs. Aiden’s neighbours is an artist. He paints landscapes and draws cartoons. One of them was of a man in a suit windsurfing. He’d like to know if it can be printed in plastic- for him to paint- and then mounted on a swivel to show which way the wind is blowing. This is quite a challenge. Daddy and I worked out the basic shapes on a 2D screen and now I’m cleaning it up in the 3D interface.

I’ve got to wear goggles, which are a bit big- I don’t think they expected kids to be using their system. The monitor alternates views really fast, one each from slightly different angles, and the glasses’ lenses darken and clear up so each eye only sees one of the views and the picture looks like it’s coming out of the screen. I use the wands to move the model or the view around, zoom in or out or redraw shapes.

There’s a ringing from the computer, the video call tone. I push up the goggles and switch to the VoIP screen. It’s Anne. “Hey there Mia, how’re you?”

“I’m very good.”

“Sculpting something?” she’s spotted the goggles on my forehead.

“A weather vane.” I pick up the icon for a screenshot of the windsurfer and drop it onto the video window.

“That’s cute.” Daddy comes through from the kitchen. Anne gives him a pretend serious look, “Are you forcing your daughter to do your work again?”

“It’s either that or send her up chimneys, and she’s getting too big for chimneys. How are things going over there?”

“Well, it’s not snowing. I’d like to have a snowball fight.”

“We’ll put some in the freezer for you.” I suggest.

Anne grins, “You mightn’t need to. We’re so far ahead of schedule that I’ll be back next week.”


“Then it’ll be a week of exit interviews and I want to come up and join you. I’ve got some ideas for things I’d like to make with you.”

“We can make it a family business.” I suggest.

Daddy and Anne are both looking at me. I may have said something wrong. “That would be nice.” Anne admits.

Daddy’s got a smile. I think he and Anne are trying to exchange a meaningful look over the video link. I take off the goggles and hand Daddy the wands. “Were you making dinner?”


“I’ll go and see what I can do with it.”

There’s veggies to be cut up, so I start on that. I try not to listen to the conversation in the living room, but I can’t help but smile. Not a replacement for Mummy, but a new member of the family. It’s a lovely late Christmas present.

Notes Mia In The Snow is a little piece of world building. It was inspired by the suggestion that the future could see more winters like this one and last year’s, marked by extreme conditions as winds from the North Pole push further South, whilst summers get harsher and hotter. Whilst I’m not very optimistic about governments’ abilities to do enough about climate change I want to do some stories about people coping, and even prospering, with the changes which are coming.


Scientists are proposing a project they’re nicknaming The Knowledge Collider, which will do for global data collection and analysis what The Large Hadron Collider aims to do for particle physics.

An international group of scientists are aiming to create a simulator that can replicate everything happening on Earth – from global weather patterns and the spread of diseases to international financial transactions or congestion on Milton Keynes’ roads.

Nicknamed the Living Earth Simulator (LES), the project aims to advance the scientific understanding of what is taking place on the planet, encapsulating the human actions that shape societies and the environmental forces that define the physical world.

This is pure science fiction, which we’re now reaching the processing power to make fact. I have visions of sexy young scientists- led by someone with an eyepatch, though I don’t know why that’s significant- running simulations and dispatching doctors, soldiers or super spies to potential trouble spots to do whatever is needed to head off problems before they really begin.

Sergeant Birdbrain

Just above the point where his impressive nose met his brow, there was a bulge on Sergeant Templeton’s forehead. A wrinkly bulge of paler, younger skin. With two yellow eyes which sometimes moved independently of one another and always blinked at the most disconcerting moment.

The reasoning had been simple. Pigeons process images three times faster than humans. So why not give a human, a soldier, a pigeon’s image processing abilities. They’d be able to detect enemy movements more easily and their aim when shooting moving targets would be excellent.

The brain grafting technique had only taken a few billion to perfect,and Templeton was an incredible marksman and the perfect man to take point. He only tuned into the bird brain and eyes when he needed to, the rest of the time it could think its own little thoughts.

But he did have a way of bobbing his head whilst talking which made people think he was pecking at them.