Part One of Chapter One


Here is the first part of Chapter One in my science fiction space opera, Berserker Saga, briefly published in 2010 as Onet’s Tale.


Chapter One – Jalnuur

An escape pod sat alone in the vast hanger deck after it was detected on a routine patrol above Dranaa. Its battered outer hull bore scars from countless impacts from micrometeorites and other space debris. The barely legible identification letters indicated its mother ship and battle fleet. The recovery caused great excitement on the orbiting base. The base commander reported the find to the Imperial Council on the home planet.

Technicians conducting a routine scan of the escape pod found a body in stasis. When the stasis unit was opened, the body was found to be desiccated due to the damage to the unit, caused by micrometeorite bombardment. A forensic medical team worked for hours on the lifeless mummy. DNA tests revealed the house it belonged to, and after contact was made with the family, funeral rights were carried out with a small delegation from the family as witnesses. Finally, the house of Hanseer could bury its long lost son Shanath. After several days of analysis, the audio recording made by Shanath all those centuries ago, before he placed himself in stasis, was played to the Emperor and his Imperial Council. Together with his family, he grieved for both their revered ancestors. A statue to honour Commander Shanath Hanseer was erected in front of the Imperial Palace. A lot had happened since he and the imperial fleet had disappeared.

Hanseer’s descendant, General Nagesh, had led the imperial guards uprising on Dranaa. Rumblings of discontent throughout the conquered planets had escalated into open revolt. The house of Ashah, led by Dranaa Nazir, collapsed once the imperial armed forces led by Nagesh surrounded the Imperial Palace. Dranaa and its people had a new ruler—Dranaa Nagesh.

The Negan mine on the barren planet in the twenty-sixth sector of the disputed outer reaches was the birthplace of the miners’ rebellion. The frozen surface of the planet, together with its extremely thin atmosphere, forced both the miners and their Khaz and Drana guards to live and work beneath its inhospitable surface. The mined Negan ore, once processed, was used to construct the outer hull for ships in the imperial fleet. Its shielding effect enabled the ships to survive most impacts from meteorites and weapons. People making up the mining community came from all parts of the empire that had fallen foul of the impossible rules and regulations imposed by the former Dranaa Nazir, and adopted by Nagesh.

Each planet paid tribute in the form of men and boys conscripted for military service, young girls destined to become servants or concubines, plus food, textiles, and raw materials, which were sent to Dranaa. When anyone protested, he or she, were immediately banished to the mines. The miners greatly outnumbered their Khaz and Drana guards, but because of the cruel punishment regime, remained docile. Those who tried standing up for themselves were flogged mercilessly with discharge whips, administered by the Khaz, encouraged by the Drana guards. Occasionally a miner was chosen at random and made an example of to the community, which meant he or she would be flogged then taken up to the surface and cast out into the frozen wasteland. The only escape from the mines was death. The average lifespan of a miner was six months. Combined with the harsh working conditions, Negan mining produced toxic dust particles that entered every pore of a miners’ skin, attacking all vital internal organs. The Khaz and Drana guards wore protective environmental suits, rotating every month when the cargo-ships made a call, bringing more victims to their frozen, poisonous new home.

Within the ranks of miners were many young Nephile from the warrior houses of Cydon in the far off Andromeda galaxy. Akhen from the house of Horus was fiercely proud of his ancestor Hor. When Lord Hor and his family returned to Cydon, the whole planet rejoiced. Hor’s brother-in-law, the Human-Nephile Tom, was made welcome and honoured by the ruling council. Tom’s wife and sister of Hor, the Lady Auset, had written a history of the Human-Nephile defence of the small blue planet where I live, called Earth, here in the Milky Way galaxy. Auset and Tom’s daughter, Auramooth, was of greatest interest as the first true Human-Nephile. It’s from her that Akhen was descended. Auramooth had inherited her mother’s beauty and her New Zealand father’s ways. Many young Nephile men vied for her affections. Only one young warrior serving in the guard, responsible for the safety and security of the ruling council, stole Auramooth’s heart. Akhet and Auramooth were married, and in time, a son was born of the union, named Horus in honour of his great-uncle Hor. With his birth, the house of Horus began. While Auramooth, Akhet, and their son Horus remained on Cydon, visiting Earth from time to time, Auset, Tom, and Hor returned home to the valley at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island.

Akhen and his men were captured two months prior to being sent to the mine, in an abortive rescue attempt on the planet Andras, a thorn in the side of the empire. Nephile led underground units continually sabotaged Drana installations and armed camps across the planet. Right from the start, things were going wrong for the latest incursion on Andras by the Nephile warriors and their underground units. The Drana stepped up security by imposing curfews on the local inhabitants. More and more Drana commando patrols were put in place to ‘discourage’ local support for the Nephile troublemakers. Security pass checks were carried out at random, day or night. Anyone found to be in breach was taken away by the Drana, never to be seen again. Whenever a sabotage operation was successful, the Drana carried out reprisals by rounding up the nearest group of inhabitants and executing them in public to discourage local participation. Inevitably, the population caved in under the pressure. The identities and location of the underground units were revealed. Akhen and his men found themselves trapped by a carefully laid ambush thanks to information given under torture by one of his own men. Outnumbered fifty-to-one, he had to surrender. He and his gallant team of Nephile found themselves in the hell-hole that was the Negan mine.


So there you have it – the first part of chapter one. The story proper, begins in part two of the chapter.

Don’t try this at home

more from Jim.

Jim Webster

Sri Lanka has been the victim of a government organised experiment. In April 2021, the government imposed a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic. It may well be that this wasn’t so much ideological as a desperate attempt to keep money in the country. It backfired.

Sri Lanka is normally self-sufficient in rice, but production fell by between forty and fifty percent, which meant the country had to import 300,000 metric tonnes of rice in the first three months of 2021. This can be compared with the 14,000 metric tonnes Sir Lanka imported in 2020.

Other crops have also suffered, tea exports fell by half, which cut off a major source of national income, and the increase in pests and diseases has meant that a lot of farmers are no longer even trying to…

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Kindred Spirits…


The jobbing actor remembered for all time as a British spy chief

As jobbing writers we can never rely on our work to feed us. So we must have an alternative source of income. In other words, a day job. Some like myself are now long since retired from the workforce. Therefore I am able to fully concentrate on my writing, be it another novel, or in this instance writing blog posts. Do I receive large amounts of money for all my hard work? No! Thank goodness for my small state pension…

When it comes to jobbing actors, they are those familiar faces we all recognize, even if we cannot immediately recall their names, that appear in movies, on stage, and in radio or television programs from time to time. Like us they love what they do despite being poorly paid. Like us they must still pay the bills. So like us they also need an alternative income. To keep the wolf from the door, many of them collect unemployment benefit between acting jobs.


The British jobbing actor usually cast as the quintessential villain

Like us they would love to break into the big time. But in their business, unless you are a member of an acting dynasty like the Fox family, or perhaps the Redgraves, because of their looks the jobbing actor will only ever be considered for supporting roles, seldom the lead (see the above examples – Robert Brown and Ray Winstone). In other words once seen by casting directors, they are typecast forevermore, destined to remain a jobbing actor until the day they die with no substantial regular monthly income to rely upon.


Whereas, can you ever imagine the likes of Bill Nighy (pictured above) in a supporting role as a spymaster or a villain? Just look at him! Quite simply his face dictates that he is not suitable for bit parts, thank you very much! He is much more likely to be successfully cast as a cad, bounder, lover or perhaps a dithering academic, whether on stage, screen, radio or television. Unlike the other two, for him the list is seemingly endless.

Why do I say kindred spirits? Think about it for a moment. We’re both dependent on fate. As writers we are responsible for coming up with the right set of words. Once strung together, if they prove acceptable as a new work of fiction worthy of adaptation into a screen, television, radio or stage play, the jobbing actor interprets them for the viewing and listening audiences. In both cases we work our backsides off for very little gain. In both cases we are not afraid of what being actors and writers is all about – hard graft!

Whether either discipline realizes it or not, we are connected to one another. I would go further – in both camps, the notion that what I say is a fact, simply does not arise in polite conversation! Even if it should…

So the next time you think you must be mad to want to write, know that you aren’t alone in your addiction. There are quite literally millions of jobbing writers like you and I. Equally, there are thousands of jobbing actors like Ray and Robert too, particularly in stage plays and on television and radio. Both of our occupations are addictive and often fraught with disappointments.

Not to worry, even though both disciplines are to say the least, financially precarious – occasionally the sun does actually shine on one or two of us. I’m still patiently waiting in my seventy-fourth year for my turn…

A Matter Of Philosophy

From Peter


I want to know what everything is, and nothing is; the beauty of a note and the silence which surrounds it. I like to know and understand myself, and those whom I meet, or nearly meet. I am conscious that I will not always be conscious: that my curiosity is unlimited but my time is finite, and I cannot waste a moment of it in acquiring things which will not make me richer in a way I value. 

The amusing thing is many would consider me as living in la la land, where poetry is a secret form of currency, and music a mode of transport which might carry me to lands and vistas invisible to the naked eye: to where angels might dwell and we begin to forgive and truly understand the love which passes all understanding. I can live with the opinions of the “many”, but I cannot…

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Is it just me…


Is it just me or have the rest of you noticed the disturbing increase in the number of thoroughly nasty individuals appearing on all social media sites lately?

If like myself you have the effrontary to raise your head above the parapet, by that I mean, advertise the fact that you are an active writer, by advertising your work or even supplying the link to blog posts like this one on any social media site, inevitably you will be attacked by someone who simply loves to hate. Sounds completely crazy I know, but we’re not talking about normal people here, instead I refer to the totally unhinged, common or garden, lesser spotted internet troll.

These days as a writer you fully expect it to happen sooner or later whenever a book you have written is published, especially by those who make it their personal business to pounce and attack from the shadows on major book sites such as Amazon or Goodreads.

Bizarrely, if you are not being publically derided by people like them, it usually means that your book isn’t being bought. Once the trolls find you, never ever enter into dialogue with any of them, no matter how sorely tempted you are. Just ignore the crettins! The thing to remember with trolls is that were you to physically confront them in the street, they would soon slink away, because without exception they are all cowards.

Occasionally one seemingly normal individual will appear, wanting to befriend you by employing the ruse that you share internet friends in common on a major social media site like Facebook. Normally those I keep in constant contact with on a daily basis, apart from my close personal friends and my distant cousins, are fellow writers. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been forced to ‘unfriend’ a non writer, the minute they show their true colours by making the mistake of either attacking me, or far worse in my eyes, attacking one of my writing colleagues. I had to unfriend someone recently, when the person concerned turned on me totally out of the blue while we were ‘chatting’. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have absolutely no time whatsoever for nasty individuals like that.

Recently a few cretins, (sadly one of their number is known to me) have begun attacking a lovely lady and fellow writer I’m proud to call my friend on Facebook. As a successful writer, I feel it is incumbent upon me to stand up for her and all of my fellow writers when they are being publically attacked on social media, even though many of my colleagues won’t, for fear of being targeted themselves.

So my message to all of you is to be extremely wary when someone wants to befriend you from now on. This is the latest tactic being employed by the Internet Troll – first befriend, then destroy!!! If you are the least bit unsure about it, either decline the request, or failing that, ask the friends you supposedly share in common about them first. If they are the least bit concerned, don’t befriend the individual. Better safe than sorry. It’s that simple. In the past I’ve always tended to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who wants to add me to their number of internet friends. No more!

Meantime, I invite you all to voice your views on the subject by leaving a comment below this post.

Seti II (or Sethos II f. Greek), The Fifth Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt.

More on ancient Egypt


Egypt, Thebes (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979) – Luxor – Valley of the Kings. Tomb of Seti II. Entrance. Relief (Dynasty 19, Seti II, 1214-1186 BC) (Photo by S. VANNINI/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Userkheperure Setepenre (means “Powerful are the manifestations ofRe)Seti II(reigned 1203 B.C.E. – 1197 B.C.E.) was the fifthPharaohof theNineteenth Dynastyduring theNew Kingdom. His rule commenced a period known for dynastic intrigue and short reigns. Seti II had to deal with many severe plots and complications, most significantly the rise of a rival king namedAmenmesses, possibly a half-brother, who seized control overUpper EgyptandNubiaduring Seti II’s second to fourth regnal years. Ancient Egypt Wiki

The Tomb Of Seti II
Ask Aladdin

The name ‘Seti’ means “of Set”, which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (also termed “Sutekh” or “Seth”). As with most…

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Have you ever wondered…


Have you ever wondered why it is that a writer prefers to work in one particular genre instead of any another? In my case, ever since my late father thought it was high time I put away the books of my early childhood, to read something far more worthy of my time, at least to his way of thinking, by giving me one of Arthur C Clarke’s brilliantly written science fiction books to read on my ninth birthday back in nineteen fifty-seven, the genre has remained my first love.

When I finally plucked up the courage to become a serious writer in nineteen ninety-five, the first book I ever wrote, and later self-published, was a science fiction tale entitled Turning Point predominantly set in my other home country – New Zealand.

If you saw my recent post (yesterday) not only showing you my body of work to date, but also the Amazon links you need to find them, you will have realised that writing tales that fall within the boundaries of the science fiction genre, is what I enjoy the most. Yes it’s true I have written a couple of books in other genres, namely Goblin Tales  a pure fantasy, and also The Adventures of Ursus the Bear a delightful tale I specifically wrote for parents to read to their tiny tots. What can I tell you, they both needed to be written. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Like all genres, the heading science fiction covers a multitude of… Oops, I almost said sins. No, lets make that definite possibilities. That’s much better. Now where was I? Oh yeh; some science fiction writers prefer to set their stories in the far distant future, while I tend to set mine either in the present day, or at a stretch, within a plus or minus period of one hundred years from the present. Having said that, my second science fiction novel Onet’s Tale was also set way into the future. It was the only novel of mine to be published by a traditional press, albeit one of the small pursuasion, which, entirely due to the hissy fits and tantrums of its capricious owner/senior editor, is no longer available, despite the fact that it still appears beside my name on Amazon. Then people wonder why I have no time for business executives who think it would be a good idea to set themselves up as publishers, purely to impress their equally shallow colleagues and social set. Life is too damned short to waste your time arguing with them…

If you are wondering why it still appears along with all of my others, join the club along with every other writer. Amazon flatly refuses to delete any title on their list just in case someone may want to sell their copy back to them – yeh right, pull the other one Amazon, it’s got bells on it!

I finally shifted my science fiction writing into the time slot I far prefer in 2012, when I wrote my best seller to date, The Seventh Age. Ever since then, each and every science fiction tale I have written is set roughly within the same time period. My latest WIP The Guardian occurs not too far into the future in the next century – the twenty-second.

I leave the humorous, totally bizarre, fantastical and utterly unbelievable brands of science fiction to other writers. Let’s face it, this is one science fiction writer who would much rather write a thoroughly believable tale any day. As well as always trying to achieve that, I also ensure that the technology my characters use is either from present day, or is currently either in the design phase, or being field tested. For instance, In The Guardian I’ve ensured my current crop of character’s weapons are actual, such as the LSAT 5.55mm calibre Assault Rifle, the M110 Sniper Rifle and the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) air burst grenade launcher, along with some old favourites that most males will be totally familiar with, such as the Claymore anti-personnel mine and C4 plastic explosive.

If you will pardon the pun – In my book(s) there is no place for light-sabres or ray guns in any belieavable science fiction story. I leave that kind of thing entirely in the hands of the George Lucas’ of this world. These days I also tend to leave ET style aliens to Steven Spielberg and co, preferring my characters to be human, even though I did include one in two of my books a few years back. I’m not averse to the idea of slipping in the odd artificial or virtual intelligence into one or other of my stories now or in the future.

Well, now that I’ve bored you to death – sorry, I mean now that I’ve given you a brief insight into how this science fiction writer not only thinks, but prefers to work. If you want to know more, why not pose me a question as a comment below this post? Remember to keep them valid. In other words, no silly questions concerning things like inside leg measurements etc.


More from my beautiful friend Stephania X


Love stories with a happy end follow more or less four/five main patterns. There are the fireworks of first sight love but also its reverse,  that is,  first sight hate,  in other words,  that kind of dislike that  grows into you and makes you forge a series of unmotivated prejudices on the object of your aversion only to discover  that aversion was actually love and you end up with the ring on your finger( Mr Run and I have been masters of this scheme). Then there are those who after  having been friend for long realize that that innocent feeling has actually turned into something more involving and completely new, or those who have lost, for some reasons, what they believed to be the love of their life and  fate gives them a second chance with the same person or another one. Think about it, these are the main patterns…

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What recognized qualifications do I need to become a published writer?


This is a long post aimed at all current writers and those waiting in the wings, so please bear with me.


A couple of days ago while perusing the latest posts on Facebook, I came across one that my friend and fellow writer, Stuart Aken, had found on a question and answer site called Quora (Google it if you want to find it’s location). Along with a couple of others in the game, Stuart and I added our comments to a query put forth by someone, on the subject of which qualifications were needed to be able to become a writer and to break into the publishing world.

Together with Stuart’s initial comment on Quora, the ones John Yeoman, Karen Wolfe Whitchurch and myself added on Facebook, hopefully helped to back up Stuart’s views, and to quash the ridiculous notion once and for all.

Yes, you can go to the expense time and trouble to gain as many literary qualifications as there are stars in the night sky. But no amount of academic study will somehow infer that you are a writer. All any formal course related to the English language will inevitably tend to do, is to kill off any talent you may have thought you had, rendering gaining any qualification so-called, counterproductive.

In other words, as a potential writer you are completely wasting your time chasing any form of formal qualification. In fact even considering gaining any on offer under the headings of English Literature, or Creative Writing is guaranteed to be a monumental waste of your time. Why? Because all participating in any course designed to gain these academic qualifications ever does, is to burn the personal views and opinions of your teachers and lecturers into your subconcious, which all published authors, myself included, would argue renders you incapable of original thought, the absolutely fundamental requirement for any writer!

The following statement is a lose amalgamation of what we all said in our different answers to the article on Facebook:

“The best way to break into publishing is NOT to have an MFA in creative writing. Still less, a PhD. Academic laureates have no correlation whatsoever with publishing success. Still less has ‘good writing’. All any writing course will do for you is to impart your teacher’s views and way of writing on you. Be a reader first. Be an observer and an eavesdropper. Your voice will come.”

And yet so many newcomers to our calling still fervently persist in clinging to the absolute myth perpetrated by those within the industry, who quiet frankly should know better, such as literary agents, editors, publishers and professional reviewers, that you need to be formally qualified, hoping that by doing so the vast majority of newcomers will be dissuaded from ever writing anything other than their own names, now and in the future.

Yes I’ll grant you there are two notable exceptions to the rule. The difference being that both of them were brilliant academics in their own right, long before beginning to write. I refer of course to two of my literary hero’s – J.R.R Tolkien and his friend and colleague C.S Lewis. But without a natural bent for storytelling, no one beyond the academic world would ever have read anything written by either of them, other than their academic papers.

Remember this – Storytellers aren’t manufactured, they’re born!!! So let’s hear no more nonsense about which recognised qualification you need! The only way to nurture your natural talent for storytelling, always providing you have one in the first place, is to first of all become widely read. In other words read anything and everything. Peferably books not tweets!

Secondly, don’t believe for one minute that you need the help of any form of so-called professional editing service. If you are any damned good, you don’t!

The other point to remember about employing any editor, is that unless you are extremely vigilant your work will become coloured or contaminated by them. In other words the story is no longer solely your own. Instead it ends up being co-written by both you and them – something to think about!

Some of the more unscrupulous among their number see absolutely nothing wrong in adding their names to your book as co-authors. I tell you this from bitter personal experience. It was done to me years ago with my very first published work, before I finally saw the light and rapidly left the murky world of traditional publishing to become an Indie.

All any of us really ever needs, apart from the courage of our convictions, is a team of reliable beta readers to take a look at our latest MS and tell us whether or not it works. How? By pointing out things that you have missed or perhaps glossed over, as well as the inevitable spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.

I’ll spell it out for you one last time if it still hasn’t sunk in quite yet – you have to be born with a natural bent for storytelling to become a writer.

Turning your latest tale into a work worthy of publishing comes much, much later via nothing more or less than sheer bloody hardwork on your part in the form of endless re-writes – aka polishing. I suppose what I’m really saying here is that in the end, to be a successful published writer means quite literally that its all down to you and you alone. So in the meantime get busy reading every book you can lay your hands on, before you even begin to contemplate writing that future best seller. Why? Think back to when you were a child. Before you mastered walking, first you had to learn to crawl – right?

For what it’s worth, as a successful publisher writer myself, I’ll always encourage you to go for it. Even though many online book sites like Amazon are currently choked with literally hundreds of thousands of badly written new titles by wannabes, making it practically impossible for anything we write to stand out from the crowd.

Just remember this – unless you possess a God given natural talent for storytelling, writing ain’t easy by any stretch of the imagination! Nor should it be!!!

Instead it involves a hell of a lot of hard work often for very little gain, except for the personal satisfaction of having written an absolute blinder of a yarn. As sure as eggs is eggs, while we all slowly gain a reputation for storytelling with each title we put out, the newcomer won’t gain one first time out!

So for now just take my advice – keep your head down and write, write, write and write some more. Oh, one other thing for those among you who think that writing will ensure overnight fame and riches, bear in mind that 99.999% of all writer’s annual earnings from royalties fall well below the poverty line.

Lastly, the world is full of wannabes who think that by rubbing shoulders with those of us who actually are successful, that they will somehow become writers themselves by osmosis. Just take note of the number of unpublished wannabies who currently inhabit the various social media sites, labouring under the misconception that by adding the word ‘Author’ to their name, it will somehow elevate them within the literary world, without partaking in all of the hard work being a writer entails. It won’t! Unlike everything else we do, it takes a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice on our part to gain a worthwhile reputation. Insisting on adding the word ‘Author’ to your name impresses no one. If anything it has the opposite effect! Think about it for a moment, it wasn’t the brightest move you ever made now was it. Genuine published writers don’t do it. Neither should you.

None of us are in it for the money. Only the absolute joy of sharing our tales with the world through our writing…

A very limited edition

More from Tallis

Tallis Steelyard

I might well have intimated previously, it can be difficult to get published. Oh anybody can copy their work onto the harsh brown wrapping paper used by so many of those who deliver parcels. But even if you use good ink, it soon fades. However enthusiastically you tout your work, you’ll be lucky to be offered more than two or three dregs for it, and that from somebody who does deliveries and reckons to use the paper again for its proper purpose, just as soon as the ink has faded.

But when dealing with printers and publishers they adopt an entirely hardnosed approach to your work. They care little for artistic verisimilitude. Indeed they show no concern as to whether it represents an authentic voice, or even whether it hides within itself immortal couplets which will return over the years to haunt the reader’s imagination. They merely care whether they…

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