A Collaboration – The Tin Pot Battleships

A Collaboration

I’m rarely hesitant to admit the truth when it comes to my ability to market myself; I am a writer, not a marketer. This summer, I am deep in my first non-science fiction project, an urban fantasy set on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island, so my focus these days is on anything but marketing (Add to that the weather is lovely and I have a canoe, backyard and dog all beckoning for my undivided attention) Sometimes, marketing opportunities literally sit down in front of you over a glass of pinot grigio and announce themselves, and one buys into them with all of the thoughtless zeal of a hot dog contest participant. This particular opportunity came from my wife, an award-winning artist, who thought a collaboration between ourselves – my writing and her art, would be a grand idea. I did so as well, and like renovations, trip planning and changing flat tires, it had its trying moments… very trying indeed for two very stubborn and opinionated artists.

The collaboration is complete, her works are up in a show at a local art gallery, garnering no end of quizzical looks and my imagined questions: “So, the mammoth in the painting, why?” or “Is that soldier playing golf?” or “Is he throwing up?”

So, I plan to deliver the series of works with commentary on this blog, beginning with, Tin Pot Battleships.

My wife was quite keen to capture the battle of Coloe Vallis where a mixed force of United Nations Off-World Legion jawan soldiers, Pavonis Constables and a hundred or so Neo Celts, also known as the Feradadh Boys, attacked the Tong Fort located there in retribution for the earlier murder of a pair of jawan soldiers. She was interested in the paddlewheelers, wondering at how they were laid out, requesting imagery, and generally wondering what a recoilless rifle was. As with any question posed to me in 2014, I quickly directed her to Google, but she has the tenacity of a terrier when she has questions, and she would not be swayed. So we sat down while I pulled up images of British Columbian paddlewheelers from the 1890s, a picture of a recoilless rifle, and laid out my own imaginings of the climax of the amphibious assault with recoilless rifles blazing away. It was exciting stuff, mind, my descriptions of the explosion,s the fires, the licking flames, the horrific damage, and the inexorable assault as the three paddlewheelers punched through hell to get to the beach. The enthusiasm I held faded slightly as my wife sat unmoved, then proceeded to lay out her ‘impressions.’ My wife is an impressionist, I might add, whereas I am a zealot for realism; that should have been the greatest warning to me of the storms that would come. Her impressions were indeed impressions, and contained little of the, or maybe it was ‘my’, emotion of the events. She laid out her thoughts and I balked; she mused over the imagery and I was horrified; and she considered the sentiments and I nearly cried. Although it lacked the volume of our other discussions – more on that in another post – we did come to a somewhat amiable conclusion with the imagery she ultimately chose.

I present to you, Tin Pot Battleships with the appropriate narrative from the anthology, The Scarlet Bastards

IMG_9627 (780x1024)

We pointed our bow towards the beach and fired the recoilless rifle and the heavy machine guns. The battered Zhuanyun and the burningBelladonna did the same, but as we were in far better condition, we easily outpaced them. I kept low as we closed the beach for we again came under withering small arms fire. Lukinaos continued to blast the Black Hand defences causing great smoking rents in the fascines and Hesco while the streams of 50 calibre tracers punched deeply and ricocheted in a wondrous fireworks show. We closed the last 100 meters and entered a hailstorm of lead as the Black Hand focused everything upon us. I cowered quivering in terror at the thought of having to raise myself from my meagre protection and leave the ship for the open beach and its almost certain death. Yet that was my task, and as MacShaka crouched amongst us shouting encouraging words that I no longer remember, I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and willed myself to work up the nerve.

I must admit that I was emboldened as the small arms fire began to fade, for the efforts of those three little tin pot battleships was enough to turn the Black Hand defences into a hellish mess. The fascines were nothing more than a low, smoking, splintered ruin; both of the towers had collapsed into burning messes; and the Black Hand recoilless rifles were silent.

In the diminishing din with less than 50 meters to go, MacShaka roared, “Steady lads, be ready tae gae!”

With Thoe steering and the Naimaidan Regina making best speed, we closed that beach with a rapidity that must have been daunting to the defenders. Then with a suddenness that belied my preparedness, there was a crunching sound and the bow rose as the paddlewheel drove the ship up onto the rocky beach.

“Now, lads! At ‘em!” MacShaka screamed. The jawans and Neo Celts on the foc’sle leaped over the bulwark to drop to the beach while those within the ship piled out of the cargo doors into a meter of water. While the paddlewheel continued to thrash and push the ship up farther, the heavy machine guns and recoilless rifle peppered the defences 30 meters away with an appalling destruction that showered the charging troops with splinters.

As you can imagine, I was not keen to move. I was well holed up in the bow with Usman, but MacShaka wasn’t having any of it. “Sikunder!” he thundered as he grasped me by the collar, “move yer fucking keelie ass!” With Usman in tow he manoeuvred me to the bulwark, picked me up with that latent strength of the Hyperion that dwelt within him, and tossed me over the side. I landed in a few centimetres of water on top of my backpack – which likely saved me a broken back – then rolled over and squirmed towards a rock that just barely protected my head. Usman pushed in beside me, and we had a wicked argument over who should get the rock and who should go find their own.

Around us, bullets chipped off rocks and fanned the air, bowling the jawans and Neo Celts over like skittles. They lay fallen, their cries rising into a chorus of soul wrenching shrieks that had me sobbing and cowering while above us Lukianos continued firing the recoilless rifle. The detonations from each hit were now so close that they reverberated through my body and sent waves of splinters around us. I shrieked my hatred towards the mercurial old Greek, but he couldn’t hear me. The sound, that terrible blasting bedlam that drowned out everything, the sound that pounded my skull beneath that horrific discord of death and destruction was too complete. Nothing could penetrate it.

Or so I thought.

As I sought to bury myself deep in the cold granite stones of the beach, a new sound entered my consciousness – the deep drone and screeling cries of the pipes. Yes, the pipers had struck up their tune again; standing in the water on each side of the groundedNaimaidan Regina they brayed Johnny Cope as the Zhuanyunand the Belladonna pushed on the beach on either side of us. Suddenly, scores of newly arrived jawans entered the fray, and the focus on our group wavered. We weren’t in the clear by a long chalk, but by God it was no longer raining lead.

“Cope sent a challenge frae Dunbar:

‘Charlie, meet me an’ ye daur,

An’ I’ll learn you the art o’ war
If you’ll meet me i’ the morning.’”


Somehow, and without any real planning, I found myself hitting the halfway mark on my urban fantasy project. A few words here, a paragraph there and suddenly I have reached a point in my story that seemed quite distant when I first started this journey so many months ago. Though I’d always wanted to delve into a fantasy project, I’d stuck with scifi, with some success, and left the fantasy side of my imagination well back on a burner rendered near invisible. When I decided upon my fantasy project, it was first as a National Novel Writing Month endeavor that fizzled fairly quickly due to a lack of proper planning. So I put it off for a few months, ruminated a bit more on the characters, tone and plot, and then suddenly, progress! Characters and background began to fill out, the plot solidified and now, halfway.

I had been pushing myself to begin the third book of my Gleisium Chronicles, but that’s stalled somewhat as my mind is whirling with the directions and tangents of my urban fantasy. So, here I am once again changing tack and going back to this project. I am to finish it this summer, writer’s block be damned!


So Many Directions

For some reason, my writing has been aimless of late. If I was brutally honest, I’d go back as far as the National Novel Writing Month competition where I successfully wrote my next novel from The Scarlet Bastard series of dystopian scifi adventures. After that, I took a pause over Christmas, only doing a bit of light editing. Come January, I resumed working on my urban fantasy, Aeonghus Dubh, where I made a bit of progress. At the same time, I decided to combine my novellas into an anthology so I could prepare it for print. All of these little projects pulled me this way and that, and although I now have the anthology out there, I was sorry to say my urban fantasy project only chugs along slowly. It’s of course a new genre for me and it’s proven to be a bit of a challenge, however, I was persevering until I began to see my sales suggesting I need to change tack. Over the last couple of months I’ve seen my sales go up for my military scifi series that began with Europa Rising and was followed up by Jupiter Rising. In fact, sales were doing so well (relatively speaking) that it strongly suggested I may need to move on the next book in the series, Titan Rising.

I really want to progress my urban fantasy, however, it seems that military scifi is drawing me back and Titan Rising has to be written. So, I will putter on that urban fantasy in the background as I focus on the next book, Titan Rising.

Meanwhile, my next book in my, The Scarlet Bastards series will go to my editor shortly. The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach is coming soon!

Aeonghus Dubh

I thought I’d drop a few snippets of my urban fantasy, Aeonghus Dubh, a work thoroughly in progress. These are draft pieces, so ignore any of the outward signs of requiring an edit. That part comes soon enough.

The guilt suddenly overwhelmed her like a deluge; there was an indescribably feeling that she had somehow caused this. She placed her face in her hands and wept. What could she do? Why was she enduring this? For several minutes she cried softly, then she raised her face and wiped her eyes and nose with her sleeve.

It was then she noticed the bottle of pills on the table.

Picking up the container, Jennifer sniffed then looked at the name on the container; Oxycotin. She wasn’t sure where her mother got them; she rarely ever went to a doctor, but she knew they were powerful – a drug that lulled her mother into deep unconsciousness even without the addition of alcohol. She opened the cap and noted it was half-full. There was no directions on how many to take, but she knew her mother never took more than one, and she was an adult. Jennifer tipped the container, and four pills rolled into her hand.

That would do, she thought.

Pocketing the pills, Jennifer moved to the table with the telephone and pulled a notepad and pen from the drawer. She wrote her mother a note – she would stay the night at Karen’s, an acquaintance of sorts that her mother had met once. She would be gone the day but would be home for supper.

It would buy her time.

Jennifer pulled on her jacket to fight the growing chill of the evening. As she grasped the door handle, she looked for one last time around the darkened house. The sounds from her mother’s room had stopped and she had likely passed out. Now silence reined – a deadness of sound that matched the deadness of emotion that gripped her home.

“Good bye,” she whispered.


Faeries and History

As I progress my urban fantasy, Aeonghus Dubh, a tale of the meeting of young Jennifer MacGregor and a Scottish Gille Dubh faerie named Aeonghus on a rocky hillside in Victoria, British Columbia, I find myself trying to incorporate local history and folklore as much as I can into the story. It’s a fantasy of course, but being a student of history, there is a certain romantic attraction to the idea of mixing in local history into the experiences of a transplanted Scottish faerie who fled the old world for the new.

Certainly one such incident, the loss of the merchant ship, Tonquin, in the summer of 1811, is one I’m planning to add.

painting01Though said to have been attacked by local natives in Clayoquat Sound and eventually blown up by one of the few surviving crew members, Aeonghus Dubh contains the obscure local legend that natives were held back from their attack so that a horrible group of mysterious creatures, seals that could transform into humans, could attack it instead to rescue one of their own. Though history gives natives the credit, it was these mysterious creatures that brought about the true demise of the ship and crew.


There will be more points of history such as this as Aeonghus Dubh unfolds. 

Stay tuned.

Rural Development and Faeries

Iceland halts road scheme because it might have disturb the ELVES

In this land of fire and ice, where the fog-shrouded lava fields offer a spooky landscape in which anything might lurk, stories abound of the ‘hidden folk’ – thousands of elves, making their homes in Iceland’s wilderness.  So perhaps it was only a matter of time before 21st-century elves got political representation. Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the tip of the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.

Land of mystery: A highway connecting Gardabaer in Reykjavik to the Alftanes Peninsula in Iceland has been put on hold because of protests about the environmental and cultural impact - including affect it could have on local elves. Pictured is one of the few huts along the Laugavegur trail

Land of mystery: A highway connecting Gardabaer in Reykjavik to the Alftanes Peninsula in Iceland has been put on hold because of protests about the environmental and cultural impact – including affect it could have on local elves. Pictured is one of the few huts along the Laugavegur trail  
The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact – including the impact on elves – of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.  And it’s not the first time issues about ‘Huldufolk’, Icelandic for ‘hidden folk’, have affected planning decisions. They occur so often that the road and coastal administration has come up with a stock media response for elf inquiries, which states in part that ‘issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on’.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2527939/Judge-halts-Icelandic-road-project-court-decide-detrimental-impact-local-elves.html#ixzz2rT3gziwf

I’m not sure what I find so appealing about this story, beyond the obvious that there are still people, even at the level of government, that are will to make public policy decisions based upon perceptions of folklore. Of course, there would be those who would find comparisons of this type of policy decision with more dangerous policy decisions based upon religious ideology – specifically in the treatment of women and gays, but I’ll choose to move past that and embrace the simple fact that in Iceland, there are those who still believe in faeries.

I recall a similar story coming out of Ireland a few years back that focused on a development and a single faerie tree – a hawthorn or some such thing if I recall correctly. I don’t remember how it turned out, but I do remember the fascination I had of it at the time – that people would make economic decisions based upon their belief in the paranormal. As North Americans, the concept of belief in the ‘wee folk’ is mostly foreign, with our European ancestors leaving that mostly behind in the old world. A cursory examination of the internet finds little to suggest the belief in faeries is anything but mostly dead here, though one can find tantalizing suggestions that there was some belief that immigration of the faeries was thought to have taken place to a small extent. Beyond that, there is a curious concept f ‘wee folk’ found in many Native North American traditions that pre dates European arrival, though it doesn’t seem to have translated well to the newcomers. I find that odd, because newly arrived Europeans grasped onto the ‘monster’ of North America and have maintained that traditional folklore quite well. Bigfoot, Ogopogo, and the Manitou along with many others began as Native North American lore that have since caught on and now have a following among the modern inhabitants with many admitting full belief of these creatures.

Not that I think they would reroute roads or cease development, but it’s the thought that counts.

I dwell upon this because I am working on my first urban fantasy which figures on a central character that immigrated from the Old World – a Ghille Dubh or wood faerie from Scotland – who sailed into the New World in 1848 aboard HMS Constance and found a home near the tiny settlement of Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island.

The fact that we can still find some solace in the beliefs of the old world and appreciate that our modern selves do not know everything is a comfort to me for some odd reason.

I like a bit of mystery, I guess.

Where to Go From Here

So, as I bathe in the afterglow of handing off a novel project to my editor (whom has promptly wrestled me back into reality with the commentary that she could certainly tell my National Novel Writing Month challenge project was indeed written in 30 days) I now ponder in which direction to go. At this creative crossroads are two journeys – to the left I move towards the third novel in my military scifi series, Titan Rising, in which I have the first chapter well underway. To my right is a far different branch – an urban fantasy – and one which takes me well away from the hard military scifi I have been writing these past several books. I feel inclined and somewhat responsible to move on with the third book of that trilogy in order to draw it to a close, however, I must admit to being sorely tempted to take that right hand path and proceed with something quite new. As much as I have some fantasy projects rolling around in the dark pats of my mind, this one in particular has been at the forefront and absolutely bursting to come out – at times, mind. There are times when it remains stubborn in its effort to stay a mere dream.  Urban fantasy is a genre I’ve been intrigued with, and creating the story in my hometown with the applicable level of history to flesh out the bones has been a fun exercise so far.


I was actually working on it today, some reading of what I had so far as well as a little light writing and editing, and I was finding myself drawn to it. That story simply needs to be told, and I lean a little more towards it each time I ponder what path to take. Not to say, of course, that I can’t work on both of course (I usually have a project or two on the go to compensate getting stuck on one) but I have been deliberately putting this urban fantasy off for now.

So, I think I will put a bit of elbow grease into Aeonghus Dubh and see what comes of it.


The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach

My National Novel Writing Month project, The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallch, has finished its first draft and initial edit. Now it’s off for the first real edit.

Seventeen year old jawan soldier of the United Nations Off-World Legion, Alexander ‘Sikunder’ Armstrong, arrives with a herd of highland cattle and a gang of adolescent rustlers at the new Legion fort of Sommerkveld Castrum and finds himself the unwilling participant in a growing feud between the broken men of the Cheung and illegal settlers of Gleann Ceallach. As the dispute intensifies and the Off-World Legion and Samsāra Constabulary are dragged into an expanding conflict involving Gliesiun refugees including a particularly brutish clan  called the Et’moru, Sikunder comes under the care of the fighting Nuns of Saint Brigid and their mercurial Mother Superior, whom the wags of the colony have called, The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach. The lives of thousands are at stake as a final stand is made by the nuns and the Legion in the Monastery of Saint Brigid in a tiny remote valley 20 light years from Earth on the colony of Samsāra.

Fight this day the battle of the Lord with thy legions of holy Angels, even as of old, thou didst fight against Lucifer, the leader of the proud spirits and all his rebel Angels, who were powerless to stand against thee!

Cardinal V1.0

Remiss Again

Yes, it’s true. A perusal of my blogging and social media reveals the depths of my failing – or the partial failing, of my marketing campaign. I make efforts not to hammer myself too hard, for I had one of my better months of sales in December – not John Grisham numbers mind, and I won’t be signing off on the day job any time soon, but a double digit month is a big one for me, and I was rather pleased in the end. Being elbows deep in editing, I haven’t played too much on social media nor paid much attention to my marketing strategy. I’ve played a bit on Twitter and I’ve put a bit of effort into Tumblr (which I confess to like more than Twitter) but I’m not quite there yet. Linked In numbers are huge and Goodreads is by far my untouched potential (my New Year’s goal is to focus on that line of attack).

My ongoing edit of The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach is coming to an end, and then I will be joyfully handing it off to my editor.

The next project is combining my three novellas; The Scarlet Bastards, Fremantle Freya and Tongs, Tartan and Tin Pot Battleships into one novel – The Scarlet Bastards – so that I can work on a paperback version.

Apologies for the short note, but my aim is to increase blog traffic this year.


Offline For A Month – But For Good Reason

So, my blog has been conspicuously quiet, and not just this particular part of my social media network. My tumblr blog is silent, Twitter only has a few tweets, and my Author Facebook page is mostly made up of shares. Yes, it’s been a quiet November, but you may ask…..why? Well…


Yes, my second year of attempting the National Novel Writing Month challenge saw success, unlike last year where I didn’t even crack 10,000. For those unfamiliar with the NaNoWriMo challenge, one has 30 days to produce a 50,000 novel. I will admit that it came down to the wire for me (finished on the 29th), however, I was pleased with the very rough draft and plan on spending the winter in rewrites and edits for a spring release date.

The project is called, The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach, it is the fourth book in a series of short story anthologies collectively called, The Scarlet Bastards. What makes this fourth book unique is that it is neither an anthology nor a novella (the third book, Tongs, Tartan and Tin Pot Battleships was a novel but still an anthology of short stories) This is my first full length novel with this series and it is a bridge to the next full length novel that I’ve been working on currently labeled, Samsara.

The plot of The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach follows on to the end of Tongs, Tartan and Tin Pot Battleships which sees the protagonist, Alexander ‘Sikunder’ Armstrong, a 17 year old runaway from his home in Naramata, British Columbia who has joined the United Nations Off-World Legion, arrive in the fishing town of Agarum on the Seleucus Lacus in the colony of Samsara. Located some 20 light years from Earth, the colony is the dumping ground of UN refugees, roughnecks, criminals and the adventurous poor and downtrodden from Earth, and thousands of Gliesiuns from the world of Gliesium in orbit around Gliese 581. His decuria – some 50 or more jawan soldiers – are posted to a new castrum (fort) in the Aebbas Saltus, a UN settlement that has grown too rough to handle by the small force of Samsara Constables. Sikunder is quickly involved in a minor skirmish with a local band of broekn criminals called the Cheung; a skirmish that the UN was unwilling to initiate. For his pains of unwilling involvement, Sikunder is sent out the following day on an uncomfortable winter patrol with a column of 50 constables and hired guns to the village of Svarga and back. It should have been a cold, uncomfortable yet safe mission, yet hours into, the column is decimated by a band of Glisieun refugees from the Athand’u clan. Sikunder survives the slaughter and wakes up in a nearby monastery under the ministrations of Sister Mary Coulthard, called the Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach by the local wags. She leads over 100 nuns – mostly broken women she has collected from slavery, prostitution and poverty whom she ministers then sends out into the colony to help the needy. They are not your everyday nuns, however, for the help they can offer is often violent, and they are a well armed force for good in a valley that is pregnant with evil.

In the days that follow the massacre, some of Sikunder’s decuria arrive to investigate the scene and retrieve him. The weather closes in, however, and the Legion soon learns that Athand’u were put up to the massacre by a dreaded clan of Gliesiuns that were thought to be well south and hundreds of kilometers away. The Et’moru clan are a truly evil collection of creatures looking to establish a homeland in Gleann Ceallach and disposing of first the constabulary then followed by the Athand’u themselves is the beginning of their Machiavellian plan. Leaving only the monastery and its force of nuns, the jawans of the Legion under the leadership of its towering and colourful leader, Subedar Angus Motshwega, a Scottish raised Capetown Zulu affectionately called, MacShaka the Tartan Zulu, decided that they will stand with the nuns and against the orders of the UN who are uninterested in a fight under lands they are not responsible for.

Sikunder digs deep to find his courage, and in the end, stands with the Cardinal in the final attack by the Et’moru.

Nana Armstrong had died seven months before I fled Earth. She’d had a stroke and lay in the baking sun in beneath her apple trees for a couple of days before succumbing. It had been an horrible death, I thought, lying there alone with the knowledge that death was coming – maybe not fast enough, but coming. I looked down upon Coulthard, tight lipped and focused, yet afraid; so very afraid. She was surrounded by her nuns, but for a moment, I could see that was very along.

“No one should die alone,” I heard myself say as I stalked over to the stairs and went down. I ignored the shouts of Usman as I rushed through the common room and out into the courtyard. I found myself standing before Coulthard who seemed oblivious until she seemed to catch sight of me from the corner of her eye.

“What are you doing here, jawan?” she asked as she returned her gaze upon the gate. The shrieks of the Et’moru had begun. They were coming.

“I’m here to fight,” I said as I took a place beside her. I pulled my pistol out, powered it up, heard the ‘snick’ as a round was chambered, then placed it back in its holster. I loosened my Khyber knife and hatchet, planted my feet and tapped the button on the side of my rifle that released the 30 centimetre serrated bayonet.

“You should be with your own kind, jawan,” she said through clenched teeth.

“I am,” I replied.

“Nonsense,” she replied, though with less asperity.

“Sacrifice,” I replied. “You said to not question it. Generosity and sacrifice do not exist, you said, if no one benefits from it.”

A small wintry smile crossed her lips. “Jawan, you have bested me.”

The constables suddenly opened fire through the holes in the gate and I brought my rifle to the ready. “They come,” Coulthard cried. “Glorious Archangel St. Michael, by thy protection, enable my soul to be so enriched by grace as to be worthy to be presented by thee to Jesus Christ, my Judge, at the hour of my death!” she cried. A few of the nuns around us were weeping but Coutlhard’s voice drowned their fear away. “As thou hast conquered Satan and expelled him from Heaven, conquer him again, and drive him far away from me at the hour of my death.

The gates shuddered beneath a mighty blow, and this time they bowed inwards while the six constables pushed back.

“Be ready!” she roared.

  • Book Launch – The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach

    The Big DayNovember 1st, 2014
    The big day is here. The Cardinal of Gleann Ceallach is now available on Amazon.com!
  • about.me

    Sean MacUisdin

    Sean MacUisdin

    Sean Pól MacÚisdin grew up in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, enjoying the outdoors and the simple life before choosing a career in the Royal Canadian Navy. Although he saw many countries during his career, it is the fjords and bays of the coast of British Columbia that inspire him most with their rugged beauty and awesome sense of isolation. Although his writing career was slowed by his time at sea and raising a family, it has renewed itself in the world of the ebook.

  • "Send the lands deliverance Frae every reaving riding Scot, We´ll sune hae neither cow nor eye, We´ll sune hae neither staig nor stot."
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