Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Biggest Pumpkin in the World

My flash fiction story, The Biggest Pumpkin in the World, has been published on as one of their featured stories. This one came about as the subject of my local writing group, Wirral Writers', annual flash challenge. So hey, thanks guys!

here's the link:

I'm delighted to be up on once more. My last story with them was Call Me Murph, back in August 2011.
It's a nice venue for flash fiction, and now there is also a sister site 
Well worth checking out.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

World Fantasy - do awards matter?

This was an interesting panel. ( Big guns, again: Elizabeth Bear, Tricia Sullivan, Melanie Tem, Ellen Datlow) Those who have had the awards; Hugos, Nebulas, Clarkes, etc; feel they do not help a career in any way, that they do not increase income, but are happy enough, in terms of validation, to receive them. Those of us who have never recieved the glittering heights of even a nomination (and I'm assuming my WOTF and Baen are a little too lowly to count in this company) would, I'm sure, be happy to give it a try, anyway, and see for ourselves.

But then we got onto how to get noticed. Is it right to list all one's eligible stories in an effort to make sure that those with a vote are aware of what the writers have recently published that are eligible. A good point was made, from the floor, that there is a big cultural difference between Brits and Americans as regards to what individuals are comfortable doing. This is a good point. I am very wary about the whole self promotion thing. Here's the British way: (and I'm cringing with every keystroke)

I was excited to find this frdge magnet, on the publicity table, as one of the giveaways, and I grabbed it. It's for issue 7 of Kzine, out now. This is a nice magazine, professionaly put together and well worth a look. Issue 7 has stories from Sarah L Byrne, Louise Hughes, Mike Phillips, Forrest Roy Johnson, Simon Kewin, Steve Conoboy, and Edward McDermott. Ryan Sciduna of Malta Comics Con said "...I would hugely recommend you pick up an issue of Kzine..."

There, done. Hopefully people will be drawn to buy issue 7. I hope so. I hope they enjoy it enough to then then go out and buy issue 8, in January. Issue 8 will include a story called The Abolitionist. Guess who wrote it.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Reflections on World Fantasy 2013 in Brighton

Arriving at World Fantasy had me feeling like a Vegan's dog being set loose in a sausage factory. I didn't expect this.  The scale of the thing. I have been to plenty of Eastercons and Bristolcons and Fantasycons, so I am no stranger to the genre convention process, but the buzz and the throngs of overseas participants; a dealer's room the size of an aircraft hangar; an art show with hundreds of exhibits.... I am blown away. And all this while lugging round three bags of free book giveaways. Wide eyed does not begin to describe my feelings.
This was the first panel I went to. It's hard to see from the photo, but up there, left to right, we had Maura McHugh, Mike Carey, Mike Chinn, Christopher Golden, Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman. Big, big guns. They were talking about getting into comics, and this is something, from a reading perspective, I'm more and more drawn to (pun not intended, but I'm leaving it in anyway) probably through having a wife who is an artist and spends each panel absently drawing blood spattered suerheroes in her sketch book.

And then, in the corridor, I bumped into Tim Powers, who recognised me from four years back, and said, hi. So that left me all tongue-tied and fan-boy jelly-legged.

This is great! I should be able to articulate this better, I know, but I don't have a tail to wag - the doggy answer to running out of superlatives.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Next Publishing Revolution

As if it's not enough that we've had the e-book revolution in publishing, it seems that the next big thing is just around the corner. Bitcoin is coming. Already available for some US bank accounts, Bitcoin allows micropayment for some online products. It's been touted as the way we will pay for internet, a minute at a time, or for news, one article at a time. The sticking point has always been the merchant's fee that puts a flat transaction charge on every payment, but economic pressure is bound to change this model. 

So, imagine if you could sell your book one page at a time, at say 0.01 pence per page. Readers could decide how long to stick with your book without having to commit to any full, up-front payment. One penny is not a big risk for 10 pages or so. There are advantages to the writer: it presents a way of easing into the market without having to give away books for free as a loss leader. But what it also might mean is that the writer can no longer afford to have any dull sections. Every page must crackle. At the moment a reader may stay with a slow section because he has already made an investment and does not want to waste the sum he has paid already through giving up too soon. With Micropayment there is no risk, no waste. The reader will pay only up until he/she is no longer being entertained.
This is a scary thought. I sometimes enjoy reading a slow burner. It is often good to ease into a story and get to know the characters and setting before any major conflict comes along. As a reader, will I still be given that choice? Is this the end of the slow-burner? Will writers live in terror of the cultural change that will end the cash inflow at the precise moment when their story begins to slow?
We are still at a time when the industry is trying to come to terms with massive change, and yet here comes more. I guess only time will tell if we make the most of these layers of change stacked upon change, as opportunities for new expression. Or will we simply find ourselves with an endless succession of fast-paced high-octane thrillers and little else?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Space Race - the British Qualifying Heats

This is High Down, on the Isle of Wight, the site of the British foray into the space race. It is the rocket testing site, now just concrete and ghosts. It's an evocative place, managed, today,  by the National Trust. You have to use a bit of imagination to picture the gantries and bunkers and the smell of kerosine rocket fuel. This is a place with a short history. The Black Arrow rockets were built in East Cowes before being brought here for testing, then transported all the way Australia, to Woomera, for firing. The fourth launch placed the satellite, Prospero, into orbit. It was the first and only British satellite launched on a British rocket. Just days after the successful flight the British government, with remarkable economic savvy still much in evidence to this day, pulled the plug, there being "no commercial value" in launching satellites into orbit.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Age of Portable Computing

Right now my laptop battery is on the fritz, so I have devised this handy and lightweight solution. Battery life is good (about 200 hrs) but I'm yet to build the motorised trolly that will give me the mobility I seek. But it helps me to keep writing when out and about.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Cyberfauna in Wales

So, at about four AM I was blasted awake from heavy sleep by this Waa! Waa! Waa! noise. Something electronic. Something urgent. We're miles from anywhere, in a field, in a caravan. This can only be some hitherto unexperienced alarm from our new 'van.  

But a quick search round showed up nothing amiss. I went back to sleep (eventually) and the alarm went off again. Three blasts, waa, waa, waa. Then quiet. Then again. What the hell was it? It sounded serious. It was certainly close by, in fact seemed to be coming from the caravan roof. Then I heard footsteps - on the caravan roof, followed by waa, waa, waa. It was a bird. Don't know what kind of bird. The kind with big lungs. Some birds mimic human sounds, parrots and the like, but this bird seemed to get his kicks from mimicking electronic sounds, and as far as I know there are no parrots in North Wales. This bird even seemed to posses some form of demonic intelligence, because it knew exactly the right time, just after I'd nodded off each time, to hit me with it's teeth-rattling siren blast.

Here's what I have learned: I know why farmers pack shot guns.


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lamplight Magazine

Have you ever wished you could go back to taking photographs the old way? Back to a time when there was an art to taking photographs, when you might take days studying a scene, considering the way the light played across the landscape at different times of the day. Imagine the simple pleasure of doing chemistry and creating your own plates. Imagine taking an exposure with a pocket watch. Might that be a photograph to be truly proud of?

Well, my friend, be careful what you wish for. Perhaps there is more in that photograph than you bargained for. Perhaps there is something... not very nice.

The Photograph. A new story. Out now in Lamplight Magazine. Vol.1 issue 4

Available on Smashwords for all e-reader platforms and at the Kindle store.

Monday, 20 May 2013


Look at this beast. It started on a single sheet of A4 and just grew and grew. It is the outline for my next    novel and it gives me a bit of a headache because it is not very portable. Somehow I need to break this bad boy down into separate scenes before I can do anything with it. For the the opening scenes I'm going to need a ladder and a head for heights. It's good to have connections between the various plots, subplots and layers, but in the end this lot has to be unleashed onto the world in some kind of linear sequence, and therein lies the challenge.

If I can just get each scene into a Scrivener outline I will feel better, but its hard to read and type at the same time when your 8 feet up in the air. I've tried laying it down on the floor and getting myself down in amongst the detail, but the available floor space just isn't up to the job. Neither are my knees.

I'll tell you what, though, it's been great fun so far. Loads of those weird serendipitous moments when something happens that you didn't figure on, but then you have already laid all the ground work and foreshadowing without knowing why. As works in progress go, I'm having a ball with this one.

Change of subject: I'm off to the Hay Festival next week. As usual the day job is being awkward and getting in the way of a full week of Hay goodness, but the weekend will be good and I have lots of events in the diary. I'm also reading a lot more right now and all those book shops are beckoning. Can't wait.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Fish in Print

Ah, so here it is at last, the fish anthology from Dagan Books. It is now available in the UK from Amazon as print or ebook. (I prefer the print version myself because it looks so good in the bookcase.)

Here's the link:

The anthology contains 33 original stories, science fiction and fantasy, retold fairy tales and brand new myth. There are stories from Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, Camille Alexa, Alex Shvartsman, Cate Gardner, Amanda C Davis... the list of excellence goes on and on. Fish is edited by Carrie Cuinn and KV Taylor.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Ship of Fools

As promised, here's the link to Ship of Fools which is now up on Kasma SF magazine.

I'm jumping up and down in delight at the illustration by Jose Baetas, which is just excellent. Exactly how I imagined it to be.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Third Attractor

Abyss and Apex now have my story, ‘The Third Attractor’, in their January 2013 issue. This is one that I have been especially keen to unleash on the world. It has jazz and maths and religion all thrown into a big old melting pot. And it’s set in Paris. What more could you ask.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Kasma SF Magazine

Kasma is an excellent free-to-read online SF magazine edited by Alex Korovessis. It features a new story each month by fabulous  writers such as Ken Lui, Anatoly Belilovsky, Nancy Fulda, and, in 2011 there was even a story by Robert J Sawyer, who just happens to be one of my favourite writers.

The January 2013 edition is out now, and features a story by CJ Paget with some fine illustration by José Baetas. (You know how much I love SF and fantasy art – you can see more of José Baetas’ work over at

I am delighted to announce that my own story, ‘Ship of Fools’, is scheduled to appear in the February edition. I am really pleased to be associated with Kasma SF magazine. I will post a link to the story as soon as it’s up.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year! I hope 2013 is a good one for everyone. Mine is certainly off to a flying start.