Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Steve Cook Fiction has moved!

My writing, podcasts and news can now be found at stevecookfiction.com so please update your favourite!

Many thanks,


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Avast, Ye Airships! Anthology

I'm very proud to announce that today is the release date for the Steampunk anthology 'Avast! Ye Airships!' which features a story by me, 'The Clockwork Dragon'!

"In a daring history that never was, pirates roam the skies instead of the seas. Fantastical airships sail the clouds on both sides of the law. Within these pages, you will find stories of pirates and their prey with a few more pragmatic airships thrown in. With stories ranging from Victorian skies to an alien invasion, there is something for everyone in these eighteen tales of derring-do!"

I am incredibly excited to be a part of this, and you can purchase the anthology here or here for just $3.99/£2.59!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Pocket Fiction - My Setup

How I Record Pocket Fiction

I’ve gone up in the world as far as podcasting is concerned; I’ve made my own recording studio. It’s not much, but it didn’t cost me much either. Most importantly, the quality of the recordings I’ve made has gone up, to the point where I’m wondering if I want to re-record the last couple of poor-quality episodes.

Here’s a photo of my set-up:
The mic is a Samson Q2U, seen here with an iPad mini
The ‘studio’ itself is a nice little walk-in cupboard we’ve got under the stairs. I’ve cleared it to the point where I can stand in it. The printer lives there, among a hundred other things, and on top of that is my recording booth.

Not pictured: The cats that hassled the foam the entire time.
I started with a box – I got lucky, and found one that exactly fitted the measurements of the space. I probably should have a smaller box, but I couldn’t resist buying one that fitted so perfectly.

I bought 10 squares of sound-proofing foam from eBay. I spent a while comparing the different sorts, but I couldn’t find any definitive proof that, at the standard I’m working to, a more expensive foam would yield a better result. I wasted a fair amount of time sticking it in with tape, then super glue, before finally shelling out £14 for a can of spray-adhesive. In a side note, there is a lumber shop in Brockley that sells everything. Like, everything you could ever want. Ever.

With the box lined, I put my microphone in one corner, leaving plenty of room for whatever else I needed. My laptop does fit in there, but it’s much easier to leave it out on the side. Instead, I take my wife’s iPad in there. If I transfer whatever I’m reading onto it, I have a backlit screen behind the microphone that I can read from.

The last bit of physical kit was a pop-guard. By far the most irritating thing was editing out all the plosive sounds – p sounds that ‘pop’ in the recording. I looked online; they were about £3, and I nearly bought one. Then I came across a tutorial that demonstrated how to make my own, pointing out that the part most likely to wear out (the material, not the ring) can’t be replaced on one that you buy. So £3 might be good for six months, but then it’s another £3, and then another. Instead, I used a cross-stitch hoop, a £1 pair of tights, a £1 jubilee clip and a length of stiff wire to make my own pop-guard. It works like a dream. No more plosives!

Software was next. I’m blessed that I’ve got a Mac here, really, as the second-to-most-recent version of GarageBand includes a Podcast template. I’ve got some fiddling to do to ensure that it sounds the best it can, but that’s a good place to start.

And that’s it! I’ve had the microphone for over six months now, and that was by far the most expensive piece, coming in at about £80. The box was £13, the foam was £6, the pop-guard maybe cost around £10 or less. GarageBand is free, as is iMovie (which I use to port the podcasts to my YouTube channel.

I hope this was useful!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Deep In Thought 2

The second half of the flash fiction Deep In Thought, also available on my podcast, Pocket Fiction!

Writing ‘Deep In Thought’ went the usual way my mind works, which was ‘Here is a theme. How can I twist the meaning of the sentence to make it about something oblique?’ It’s by far not the first time I’ve done it. Playing with words is a favourite pastime of mine, and I’m always looking for anagrams, codes, Spoonerisms, hidden meanings and words-written-backwards (pretty much any time I see a name, like Mr Radnor, I’ll read it backwards in case it’s important. 99% of the time it’s not.)

Deep In Thought is one of those. It’s about someone deep in thoughts... someone else’s thoughts.

The skimmer flew on. Now that he was inside the long and gently curving tube, Jerod gunned the engine. It was an artefact of the visualisation, he knew; pushing further into the neuron had shrunk his skimmer down, to the point where the journey was taking far longer than it should have, but it was the only way his mind could make sense of it all. Either that, or Ramona’s mind was resisting, taking more of an active role in the simulation.
The axon tunnel ended abruptly, opening up to another large space, this one roughly ovoid. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Deep In Thought 1

I’ve been writing quite a lot recently, since I left full-time teaching, and among other things I’ve revisited the 100 themes. This was a deviantArt initiative, giving you 100 things to write about as writing prompts. I’m going to start chewing through them; I’d done 51 before I stopped, so 49 more to go!

Here’s the first half of #52, which is also the text for this week’s and next week’s Pocket Fiction podcast; watch this space in a week’s time for the second half.

052 – Deep In Thought

It was mostly dark when Jerod opened his eyes. He was on a bench seat in the front of a skimmer, looking at the cramped dashboard with its softscreens displaying dials for speed and fuel, its cupholder, the little trophy girl with her hula skirt rocking drunkenly from side to side; even the little lead-glass laser sculpture of a brain he’d stuck on with sticky tack, a memento from his first ex.  The main control panel was alight, its sepulchral glow illuminating only the barest edges of everything. He ran his hands over the plastic fascia, feeling in its ruts and scratches a wealth of memories. There was the tiny smooth circle where his dropped cigarette had melted it; they’d been at an open-air concert, just Alice and him, and the touch of her lips on his was a welcome distraction. The music had been terrible, but at least it was free. In the darkness, Jerod smiled sadly. It hadn’t lasted. The sweet nothings became arguments. He was working long hours, on the fast track to make commander. She accused him of having an affair; the argument had escalated, and she’d threatened to get out while he was driving. He’d pulled over, of course, and that was that.
His earpiece crackled, breaking into his thoughts. “Commander, are you in?” The voice was female, all business.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Keeping A Secret

I wrote ‘Keeping a Secret’ after doing a bit of research into coding information into human DNA for another project. I’m writing a short story that I would like to submit to the BBC’s Short Story Competition, and I stumbled across this new article:

It was the last line that really brought this story into view. I read that and thought, ‘Damn, that’d make an excellent story.’

053 – Keeping A Secret

“Well now,” the gang leader said. “I think you have some explaining to do.”
Like a shark circling its prey, Dragon Head Liu moved into my field of vision. We were in the only lit part of the warehouse, a circle of light shed by the single bare bulb that showed me little more than the Triad leader’s massive shadow. Other figures waited just beyond the light. I could hear them breathing, moving around. There was some sort of incense burning, sickly-sweet.
I moistened my cracked lips, tasting blood from where his ring had struck me. “I have the information you sent me for.”
“Give it to me.” His voice was deep, heavily accented.
“It’s safe. Secure.”
“Encoded into my skin.” I held my breath. Would they believe me?

Monday, 2 February 2015

The King's Thief

I have snow to thank for the fact that I’m aspiring to be a writer at all. In my second year of teaching, we lived opposite a Starbucks that was never very busy at the best of times. It was a great place to go and write; quiet conversation, background music, first-name-terms with the manager and the benefits of having a ‘regular’ drink. (Venti hazelnut latte, extra shot – not my favourite any more, sadly!)

The first week of January, I was ready to go back to work. My first term had been one of dizzying highs and hellish lows, but I’d rested and planned and resourced, and I was ready to go back. And then it snowed. We’re not great at snow in the United Kingdom; I saw headlines today in the newspapers that said things like ‘SIX INCHES OF SNOW MAY PLUNGE UK INTO CHAOS’. Now, there’s all sorts of jokes I could make about six inches of cold, hard chaos, but let’s suffice to say that in 2008 it snowed enough to close the school at which I was working.

I was totally ready to be creative, flexible, all that stuff... and all that energy just kind of backfired. Most shops didn’t really open. I’d got some games to play, but even that palled after a while. It was a brief window in my life when I wasn’t playing an MMO, so I didn’t even have Final Fantasy or World of Warcraft to fall back on. So I started writing.

It had some good world-elements. There was a race of people who were part-tree, with glowing green orbs instead of eyes, called Sylvans. There was a race of centaurs, called centaari, and a steampunk pedipulator that I’d actually forgotten about until I looked it up just now. In an homage to Metal Gear Solid 4, there were some awesome Banshees, women with emotional connections to Kaliss who were magically programmed to hunt him down and kill him. They had brass domes that completely covered their heads and rang like a bell with their constant screaming. There was a convoluted plot that involved the main character, Kaliss, pretending to be something he wasn’t in order to steal a fabulous gem, but secretly he was working for the king so that he didn’t get hanged. That influenced the title: The King’s Thief.

Trouble is, it was a bit crap. Kaliss had no character of which to speak. He was docile; people took him captive, or knocked him unconscious, meaning that he was lead around from place to place. He was boring and predictable, and completely devoid of use. Just recently, though, I think I’ve found a way to resurrect The King’s Thief, so I’m sorely tempted to plot it out and use it as my next novel. It’s cringeworthy to look back over old stuff – did I really write that? – but it will be useful in the long run.