Beautiful Titan – Free To Download 25th-26th September (Amazon Kindle only)


It’s true! You can download Beautiful Titan by Joshua Mowll FREE today (Amazon Kindle only).


Click HERE for the link to Amazon

Beautiful Titan is an alternative history novel for YA+ (full details below).

This promotion runs for two days from 25th to 26th September (from approx. midnight PST/08.00hrs GMT)

Watch the trailer here:


851AD – Six hundred years after the Roman Industrial Revolution…

The world of Beautiful Titan is familiar yet strange: an alternative history where Roman planes fly and outlawed ancient Egyptian religions secretly thrive. This is a story about love and doubt, trust and betrayal, of allegiances and friendships, and ultimately an impossible choice … the kind of choice that no one should ever have to make.

When Anuk, 19, daughter of a circus owner, meets the mysterious Felix, a gem smuggler on the run, it is the start of a strange romance controlled by forces far more powerful than themselves. Along with Anuk’s brother Quin, the trio are rounded up and taken prisoner by the secret police, and they start a dangerous journey into the dark heart of an industrialised Roman Empire.

Falsely enslaved for crimes against the King of Rome, the three find themselves assigned to the depleted 190th Legion. This besieged unit is embroiled in a war of independence which rages in the breakaway western province of Octo (North America) during a bitter and icy winter. With this perilous backdrop, Anuk and Felix’s complex friendship is forged, not through trust, but the need to survive.

But it isn’t in Octo that Anuk will find the answers to who and what Felix is, or discover the truth about her and Quin’s own curious life with the circus. Anuk can only discover these answers in Rome itself: here – and in mortal danger – she comes face to face with the grim tyrant King Belisarius himself.

Sometimes in war, love is the greatest enemy.



Book 5 and 10 tips on writing novels

I’m back to writing. Back to book 5. Back to being a novelist rather than an illustrator! Just me, my imagination and a word processor. Excellent!

I did quite a considerable amount of work on the plot for book 5 last summer, but the extraordinary amount of illustration required for The Great Space Race swamped me, so it all feels fresh, exciting and new.

So there’s a lot of ground work already done. I also have some notes from my literary agent, Clare, who has an exceptionally good eye for knowing what’s working and what’s not. I tend to listen hard to what Clare has to say, because she will be trying to sell the book shortly. Clare, I should point out, was the first person to believe in the Guild Trilogy and thought it was worth trying to get published. That’s why I care very much what she thinks.

One of Clare’s suggestions was to move the story into the first person (as in –  ‘I did this, I did that’), an idea I’d toyed with because I’d had such fun writing the Space Race that way. The Guild Trilogy is, of course, written in the third person (as in – ‘he did this, she did that’).

Writing in the first person gives the whole script a very different and somehow more immediate feel. Lots of authors use the third person because it allows you to see different points of view from the various different characters. With the first person, you get a single point of view, so are very much on one person’s journey.

With the renewed energies of 2010, I have launched forth. I have a plot structure through to the end (very important), and have written the first 10,000 words. This week I’ve been working through it, cutting, sharpening, editing to get those first 30 pages working as hard as possible. And those first 30 pages are some of the most important.

So what am I actually doing when I’m writing a first draft? I get asked this quite a bit, so perhaps it is time for… a list!

Here are some of my own tips on writing adventure novels for children. These are hard won, but I hasten to add there are many, many different ways to write a book, so this can no way be described as definitive.

1 ) The target is 50,000 words, because that is the length publishers like for children’s fiction. It is unrealistic to think 100,000 words will be rolling off the presses, unless I change my name to J. K. Mowlling.

2 ) Every paragraph must have a purpose. Anything unnecessary to the plot will probably be cut by editors later, so there’s not much point spending time writing it in the first place.

3 ) Something fundamental should change for the characters in each chapter to turn the story (a discovery, an event, a piece of information revealed). The more twists and turns the better. This drives the story forward. If nothing much has happened in a chapter, what’s the point of it being there. Is it stuffed full of exposition (see tip 9 below)?

4 ) For each chapter I ask: ‘What’s at stake here?’

5 ) For each chapter I also ask: ‘Where’s the jeopardy?’

6 ) I try to keep my chapters short. 1,500 words is more than enough. 5,000 words is far, far too long.

7 ) Nothing is sacred. Just because I especially like a chapter or an idea, I don’t get hung up on it. If it starts to get in the way of the developing story, I cut it out (but save it somewhere on my computer just in case!) then let the new material breathe and grow.

8 ) I know that not all my ideas will make it to the final draft. With this mindset from the start, it makes editing and cutting much less painful.

9 ) Exposition (in other words backstory, history lessons explaining plot, aimless pages about the character’s upbringing etc…) tend to stop the story dead. Exposition is the enemy. It needs to be fed in very, very slowly. In the trilogy, I tended to relegate exposition to sidebars, footnotes, appendices, foldouts, and illustration where possible. Anywhere but in the story… unless essential.

10) It’s a bit of cliqué now, but I like write the sort of book I would have enjoyed when I was young.

Sailing in Salcombe

I’ve had a request for more boat footage of my Walker Tideway 12. This time I’m sailing single-handed rather than motoring (see earlier post), once again in beautiful Salcombe, Devon, England.

I’d reefed the sail, and was trying to operate the tiller, main sheet and the camera, all without capsizing. This is why it’s all a bit shaky. The spring tides can be tricky through this spot and will happily drag you into the moored yachts, but by the looks of things it was high water.

I’m really keen to sail up the River Thames next year. It would make a luscious voyage through the heart of England. I just need to find 2 weeks to do it (I’m not sure I have 2 weeks spare, so this could torpedo the idea, alas… alack… grumble…).

She’s such a great boat. All varnished mahogany and teak with the wonderful patina of age. It’s a bit like sailing along in a rather beautiful piece of furniture. Last year a chap ran up to me on the beach and offered to buy her there and then. I sent him away disappointed, but he seemed intent of finding one. I hope he was successful.

Fans of Operation Typhoon Shore might notice the similarity between my boat and Powder Monkey. Hmmmhh…!

Being chased by tigers

After a fruitful telephone call with my (genius) art director Ben yesterday, I am now in possession of the Space Race To Do List and a PDF of the book as it stands. Phew! The new ground is cut, so we are entering the final stages.

This is the first time I’ve seen the novel in its entirety with illustrations and text together. Ben and I are very excited, and it certainly looks different.

Although I’ve never been chased by a tiger or any other large wild animal, the feeling I have now is, I imagine, like that first risky glance back after a spectacular sprint through the jungle to see if you’re safe or not. A lot of the physical symptoms are similar – exhaustion, some stiffness in the legs and a not inconsiderable dose of adrenaline still running through m’ veins – but who said this would be easy?

It’s funny, but seldom does anyone ever say what a very lonely and fearful business being a writer can be. Lots of uncharted jungle. Lots of tigers. So next time you’re in a bookshop, remember all those poor authors who have run blindly through the undergrowth to bring you… well… robot monkey armies in this instance.

I have completed all of the really difficult illustrations and much of what is left is polishing, adjusting and tidying up. The list is 4 sides of A4, but I know it is just a matter of getting up early and sticking at it.

For those who want a bit more detail about The List, the complex technical bit is that all the text must be black, or shades of black, so that foreign publishers can remove it at the printing stage and replace it with their own translations. This sounds simple enough, but this occupies a fair chunk of what I have to do. It’s my own fault because I got carried away in places.

Running too fast to escape those tigers. Growl, growl.

Creating the Launch Sequence

This is the final part of the rocket build – I’ve already posted the short film (see previous post), so now I can explain what it was all for.

One of the main reasons I wanted to build the rocket was to create a 30 cell animation of it launching, as we are planning to have a flick book effect running for 30 pages in the final book.

This is how I did it. I’ve numbered the pictures above to make things easier to understand:

1. Picture of the finished rocket. At 9ft long it is big enough to look very realistic through the camera lens. Any smaller and it probably wouldn’t have worked.

2. Dad and I pegged out a huge blue plastic sheet as a background. This made it easier to cut out the rocket in Photoshop later. Next we taped down a standard tape measure along the route the rocket would take (yellow in the picture).

3. The idea was to make sure that when I took the sequence of still images, the rocket was moving away from the house in consistent, measured distances so the animation worked correctly. This needed to be pretty accurate.

4. Me, looking confused, as I tried to work out how much the rocket needed to move for each frame. Mathematics was never my strongest subject.

5. The high resolution stills were taken from an upstairs bedroom. This shot is one from about halfway through the sequence.

6. Another shot in the sequence.

7. In the next few pictures (7-10), I’m going to explain how I combined images to create a single animation cell. This is an early shot where the rockets engines have just ignited. Dad is keeping the sunlight off the rocket with a table. This image is taken with a good quality 8 megapixel camera.

8. This is a still taken using the high-speed camera as we fired the CO2. The camera takes a blast of 72 images over 3 seconds, so is ideal because the CO2 fires out so quickly. Sadly, the picture quality is only 3 megapixels, so not quite sharp enough to use in the book. So what I wanted here was JUST the smoke, and because it is blurry stuff, the loss of quality didn’t matter.

9. This is the single cell created from the various pictures. I’ve cut out the still rocket picture taken with the 8 megapixel camera, and overlaid the smoke from the lower quality 3 megapixel camera. I’ve created a background in Photoshop, added spotlights, adjusted the smoke and added flame colour (or color, depending where you live in the world!).

10. I took this shot of a crane. I’ll let you work out which bit I used for the launch tower in pic 9.

11 This is a shot from later in the sequence. I’ve darkened down the rocket quite a bit, and worked on the flame and smoke trail in photoshop.

12. The final sequence. It took about 2 days to create all 30 cells.

Thank you Mr Apple Mac and Mr Photoshop, but mostly a big thank you to my Dad for moving the rocket up the garden 1ft at a time, without complaint.

The Great Space Race website goes live

CGI scene from the trailer

It is great to announce that The Great Space Race website is now live. At the moment it is aimed at the book trade, particularly the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is just about to start as I write this. Frankfurt is one of the biggest events in the publishing calender, so is really quite important. I hope it will help to sell the book around the world. Fingers crossed!

The exciting bit is that there is a trailer with a short interview and CGI (computer generated imagery) of key scenes, created by the hugely talented Simon Nankivell and Andrew Ballard at Postworks Media. This means you can watch a bunch of rockets blasting off and racing for the moon in full wide screen. Well done, chaps! Not sure I could have built all that in my Dad’s garden.

I should thank my brother for playing the drums – his 1960s classic Gretsch kit sounds, well, galactic.

There is also a PDF sampler to download, showing the layout and illustration. You’ll note there is a bit of a change in style from the trilogy.

Let me know what you think.

Operation Storm City launches in the USA

At long last, Operation Storm City (book 3 of my Guild Trilogy) hits the shelves in the USA – today! Before you ask, no, I don’t know what the delay was all about because it was published in France and the UK late last year. Publishers move in strange ways! Anyway, it’s out there now.

The story is even more action-packed than the last two (you’d expect nothing else), with Becca and Doug finally discovering what happened to their parents’ mysterious expedition to the deserts of western China, and why they went there in the first place. Phew!

There are some new bad guys in there – a crazy Russian general called Pugachev, hell-bent on a globe threatening scheme, as well as some of the old reliables such as Pembleton-Crozier and his shocking wife Lucretia.

Much of the action mirrors the places I travelled to in China (see retro-blogs various on this site), so if you want to read up on some of the background work that went into creating the book, please feel free. I’ve set up a Operation Storm City ‘Category’ for all of the related material (see left-hand side).

A few words on the illustrations. This was, I think, even more complicated to do than in the other two previous books, particularly the massive airship Becca and Doug board to cross the Himalaya Mountains. This took ages and ages and ages and ages to do! Never again

There’s also a huge pullout drawing at the back of the machine at Ur-Can as well as… planes… trains… you get the idea!

The book was great fun to do, and it is very exciting that the series is now complete. After five years of work, we’re finally there, and I really happy with the way everything has turned out.

You can read my Amazon interview on Operation Storm City HERE

I hope you enjoy it!