New Species of Human – Homo Luzonensis


For the first chapter of my first novel I imagined the Earth 100,000 years ago. It’s rare for those pre-historic times to hit the news and be popularised but the recent announcement that there was evidence of diminutive sized humans in the Philippines nearly 70,000 years ago – Homo luzonensis – caught my eye. The dating for their remains puts them there some time after the Toba event – scientists and climatologists have theorised that Toba was a climate defining event; in brief it seems to have triggered the last ice age. That ice age hit its peak about 20,000 years ago and was still retreating 10,000 years ago. The Guardian article mentions that they were there some 67,000 years ago which is several thousand years after the Toba event. I’ll touch on how I think they survived when most of our brand of humanity was wiped out.

Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia

The number of breeding human pairs has been estimated at less than 10,000 following the Toba event circa 75,000 years ago. The Toba event was the most significant volcanic eruption in that last few million years depositing a 6 inch layer of volcanic dust over South Asia and is held to be the trigger of the last ice age as well as the cause of a bottleneck in our genetic heritage. Toba, being in Indonesia, wouldn’t have been good news for these extinct pygmy folk who used to live just around the corner (in a geographical sense) in the Philippines.

General location of Toba in South East Asia

Like many, I’m fascinated with how we experienced and lived through those extreme and dark times. To imagine how bad things were, let’s take stock of similar events in human history.

Krakatoa eruption lithograph (public domain)

Krakatoa eruption lithograph (public domain)

Volcanic dust from Krakatoa (1883) darkened the skies for several years (+ produced amazing sunsets) and Tambora (1815) produced a year without a summer. Going further back, the 1257 Samalas eruption (on Lombok) is estimated to have deposited 2½ cubic miles of ash and this is held to have caused the Little Ice Age. The effects of Toba would have been much more dramatic; it ejected 200 cubic miles of ash. The 1,000 year cooling event that followed is thought to have triggered the last ice age. There’s archaeological evidence of pre-Toba settlements in India which become inactive after the event. Those there would have had a choice: try to live in a land covered with volcanic fallout or flee.

In the Philippines getting further away wouldn’t have been an option however, if the local climate then was anything like it is now, the typhoon season would have pretty much washed away significant levels of fallout dust by year 1, and given this it’s arguable that vegetation might have bounced back more quickly.

They keep pushing back the earliest evidence of agriculture – atm it’s at 23,000 years ago – this being around the peak of the last ice age. The reduction to 10,000 humans comes from mitochondrial data + Y chromosome DNA modelling, i.e. from the genetic material that was passed on. Pre-Toba populations would have been greater but by how much?

I speculate that we (our ancestors) were in a settled albeit pre-agricultural phase and Toba had such a dramatic impact on human patterns of life, we were knocked back to the Stone Age. Going back to my first novel (A Guide to First Contact) I began with a picture of man living in harmony with nature (a total antithesis of how we live our lives now) and then gradually introduce change. This change is growth according to a plan. Change is painful, it hurts and in the end it is endured rather than enjoyed. Any joy comes from successfully riding the wave, and of course, of being witness to those that adapt less successfully.

For more about my first novel A Guide to First Contact, it’s big, it’s complex and yes, the Toba event gets a name check, and it’s here: POD, Kindle.

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Angel in my Heart – update


This is an update on my current writing projects.

I am ready to pull the trigger on final edits to Angel in my Heart. This is the third of three upcoming titles which I will publish from June 2019 onwards. The other titles are:

  • Dragon Shard
  • The Turning Stone

Angel in my Heart has proved the most difficult of the three; I’m shifting a dream sequence from the end of the story back to where it belongs: the start. In addition I’m wrestling with how much world-building detail should be given a way. I’m a great fan of giving the reader something to speculate on – in the manner of PH Newby’s first chapter in The Spirit of Jem; I’m also conscious that the reveal of detail can be a big let down. The reader’s imagination is often greater than the author’s. That’s cool by me – the writer frames the world and the reader populates it.

The Turning Stone will be out first; Dragon Shard will probably be next with Angel in my Heart last. I will put them on Kindle as well as on Print on Demand.

Other works in progress:

  • Dryads – Pastoral fantasy set in the world of the Northland Steppes and the Khaif – in first draft
  • Men for the Stars – a take on our near future including stopovers at the Mexican Wall plus peacekeeping around newly independent state in South-East England: Londany!!
  • Artefact – a Sci-Fi Detective (one in the eye for Raymond Chandler!)

That’s enough for now.

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Review of ‘Moving Times’ by Phoenix Writers


A story behind a story.
When I joined Phoenix Writers in 2016, what first struck me was how understated they were. The group has fine writers but they hid their qualities in broad daylight. During my time there I came to the conclusion that for the group to promote itself, it should take a view on publishing its members. I held my fire until one AGM where the subject of future events came up and – to me blindingly obvious – mentioned my thoughts: maybe it should consider an anthology. I’ve self-published for some years now so the mechanics were a known, all that was required was the will.
I was pushing at an open door
As things turned out, work commitments meant I wasn’t in a position to do as much as I’d planned but I was able to make some suggestions on what needed to be done and, in the end the anthology went ahead.

It is called: Moving Times, and I donated three pieces:
Wild Mouse (fiction), From The Light (fiction), By Design (poem)

Moving Times by Phoenix Writers - front cover

Moving Times by Phoenix Writers

In my copy of the anthology was a thank you note

Thank you note from Bernadette

note from Bernadette

Why did I join Phoenix Writers?
A cursory internet check returned little evidence of writing groups in Horwich; it was only by accident I discovered their existence. In keeping with my urge to write and to take feedback, I had to know what they were about. Ahh – the dark days of 2017 – it was then my writing took a hit and, as my ongoing consultancy was coming to an end, I was on the lookout for answers to more pressing matters – keeping a roof over our heads and putting food on the table – even it it was the cheapest of cheap supermarket leftovers (you can only buy what you can afford). Despite all the talk of full employment, more and more do we face the hurdle of being type-cast by our recent experience. It is said that truth is the key and you should hold no secrets but in many things it’s a case of: tell the truth and society will beat you down or, at best, ignore you.

Scott Martin Productions

‘Moving
Times’ is a book put together to celebrate the decade-long existence of the Phoenix
Writers group, from Horwich Lancashire, and the contributors should be highly
proud of what they’ve achieved.

The first
thing you notice is that it is a very attractive book with a simple but
well-designed and effective cover. This really does the contents justice, which
is something not achieved by all small press and writing group books.

As a member
of three/four writing groups, I really do identify with the sentiments
expressed in the book’s foreword – ‘What moves you, gets you out of bed in the
morning, drives you to action? For us on a Thursday, it’s Phoenix Writers. We
meet as friends, share ideas and get support and inspiration’. Yes, that’s what
a strong and healthy writing group does for the usually lone creative. Such a
group provides a stable and caring home for…

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Back to the 80s


Last night I went back to school – again!
To explain, I’m the governor at local school Rhyddings. Now whatever we feel about the politics of education – and yep, it’s politicised – schools need to engage with the community. Rhyddings (where I am a governor) are making strides in that area. Last night they ran a musical show themed on Back to the 80s. The show flashbacks the 1980s schooldays of a now 30 something Corey, who’s remembering how he once had the hots for the girl next door. This is an excuse to redo a number of 80s hits which are delivered with gusto, the backing school band being on good form.
Our schools need our support and if you can turn up and sell out the last performance, how great that would be.


Dates 11th, 12th, 13th February 2019.
Tickets £3 (proceeds help fund the school)
Location: Rhyddings Business and Enterprise School
Haworth St, Oswaldtwistle, BB5 3EA

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Dryads gets to draft


Dryads, the last of my Nymph collection, has finally got to draft stage at 33,000 words. For those with a fictional frame of mind, Dryads is set in a place not dissimilar to medieval England – it has a Soke, a Ridings, a Caulder (ok there’s a spare ‘u’ in there but our river Calder is notionally the only river to join lands both east and west of the Pennines), and other familiar sounding places, all ruled over by the folks in the capital of Angelynn. Continue reading

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Burnley Literary Festival (2016) day 7 – Sufi Music


The following has been rewritten from fragments / reconstructed following some difficulties with a Windows 10 upgrade that deleted my profile nearly 2 years back.

Burnley Literary Festival 2016 - Brochure front cover

Burnley Literary Festival 2016 – Venue Guide

Rumi and The Wings of Love

Be in the world but not of it, so it is said. You hang around with a secret because you know there are seekers. The answer is not what they expect and besides, there are other things to consume – with addictive properties. This ignores the purpose and function of that that is doing the consuming. I suppose this needs a little background explanation. For this we need to go back 800 years.

About the Destruction of Khwarezm

Continue reading

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The Rick Sanchez (& Morty) Review


If you haven’t watched Rick and Morty, what is it? A comic, adult themed, sometimes gross Science Fiction romp through space, time alternate realities and dimensions, peppered with the suburban frailties of Morty’s family. Morty is Rick’s grandson and the rest of the family are parents: Beth (a horse surgeon) & Jerry (unemployed), and Summer, Morty’s sister. Beth is Rick’s daughter. Rick moved in with them two years ago and has since taken Morty on many adventures, turning his life upside down. Okay Rick’s an asshole of the highest (inter-dimensional) order… but he does know what’s going, on the other hand Morty is an unsure, self-conscious pubescent 14 year old. Mental note: just how does Rick know a crisis is brewing before he hooks Morty out of class?
Continue reading

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Nymphs 3


Nymphs.

Nymphs is still ongoing – yes I’m still puttering away on this even though I’d planned to complete during the Writer’s Retreat at Asthall Manor (8 – 12 October 2018 vintage run by Blue Pencil Agency). I’ve some notes from that time – the most important being this: then I was at 13k words expecting another 4k to finish it; now I’ve got to 20k words and there’s still no end in sight (it’s an epic!!!) – so anyway I will get round to blogging up the Writers’ Retreat stuff (after Sufis in Burnley, a retrospect of Brian Aldiss and a re-evaluation of Edgar rice Burroughs). Continue reading

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Project Cube


Project Cube

I am currently designing a Project Cube. The essence is that that it will hold both static and dynamic project data from sales through to labour, material, subcontract and sundry bought-in costs. This will be presented in monthly, year to date cumulative and budget, summarised by project manager and business area.

Why a cube?
Continue reading

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Nymphs 2


Just posted cover detail from my upcoming, fantasy themed collection: Nymphs.

Artwork by the Sloth Meister

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