The Tao of the Author: The Magic Bean

Welcome to the first Tao of the Author column!

This will be a series of posts on the more philosophical side of being an author. We’ll cover organisation for the sake of your sanity, dealing with rejection, comparing yourself to others and a host of other subjects. This is the kind of advice I wish I’d had when I started out. I think it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights.

So let’s get start by talking about The Magic Bean.


How do I become a successful author?

Every author, and possibly every creative, at some point in their careers has asked the same question whether aloud, internally, or of Google. How do I become successful? (We’ll talk about what “success” actually means in a future newsletter ). We’ve all wondered how we get from where we are to where we perceive others to already be. What magic formula, what golden ticket, will get us that status?

The fact is, unfortunately, these legendary secrets don’t exist. Despite how many “overnight success” or “they did it all themselves on the internet” stories you read, they’re not real. Because the people who are the subjects of these toxic media stories aren’t overnight successes. They didn’t rub the Lamp of Publishing and a genie appear to answer their wishes. Every creative person begins the same way, the same as me, the same as you. One day, the voices in their head got too much to ignore and they sat down to do the work. Then, they finished it. After that? They belly-crawled, persisted, tore their clothing on razorwire, persisted, got smacked down and infuriated by themselves and others before arriving at a finished project. Because that is the journey of the creative. Then, and only then, did they succeed.

What is an overnight success?

Yikes, that was a heavy start, wasn’t it? Let’s go with an analogy that doesn’t sound like a monochrome war movie tableau. Those creatives planted their magic bean and cared for it.

Ah, magic beans. That’s better.

You see, there’s no fast way to grow a beanstalk. You plant your magic bean; you water it and tend to it; when it begins to wilt you strap it to a bamboo cane; when it rains too much, you shelter it, and when the sun comes out, you rest in its shade. The magic beanstalk is the hardest plant to grow, which is why it grows the highest. You have to be prepared to tend your beanstalk (is that a euphemism? Possibly).

For us creatives, that can mean simply finishing your project. That book, painting, fan film or piece of music can’t go anywhere until you’ve finished it. Then it could be spreading the word about your work, getting friends and family involved, or sending manuscripts to publishers. All creatives, everywhere, go through this process. J.K. Rowling was dubbed an overnight success after years of struggling and an avalanche of rejections. It finally took a publisher’s 8-year-old daughter to see the potential of the Harry Potter series. J.K. tended her bean, and slaved over its growth for years to become an “overnight success”.

What do I need to be an author?

The beautiful thing? You already have your bean. All you have to do is place it in the earth.

That idea you have (you know, the one that keeps you up at night) is your bean. You hold it in the palm of your hand, the tip of your pen, the bristles of your brush. Just plant it.
Of course, there comes a warning. Not everyone’s beanstalk will reach the clouds (there be giants). Some people’s beanstalks stop growing around head height. Some people end up with a field of little shoots. But you should always be proud of what you have grown with the soil, the sunlight, and the rain that nature affords you. Looking at other people’s beanstalks just distracts you from your own; they had different soil, sunlight, and some have greenhouses. It’s pointless to compare. J.K. had hard work and luck on her side, if the tales are to be believed.

Being an author

Still, when growing a beanstalk, it doesn’t matter how high it goes, or how you got it there. None of it matters. It’s that you planted it in the first place. Everyone’s beanstalk makes the world a little greener.

I hope that all makes sense. Analogies can get strained sometimes, and generalisations can be the work of the devil. But I hope that you can see what I’m getting at. Your work is your work. Your journey is your journey. No one can tend to your garden for you, or tell you how. But you can be fulfilled, and have a great sense of pride and self-worth from the work that you do, no matter where it goes or how many people read it.

That kind of mentality is how an author survives, and that is what I’m hoping to promote with these Tao of the Author posts.

See you next time!

Thanks for reading.


Tao of the Author posts are shared with my patrons a whole year before reaching the blog. To get the latest posts as they come without delay, head over and check out my Patreon page.

Patreon is the only way that I can get to book signings and meet new readers. It also helps me to release new books and collections so please do check it out.

Patreon: My Experience

Hi everyone,

I’ve officially been on Patreon for two weeks now! How’s it going? Is it worth it? Is it complicated to use?

In short…brill, yes, no.

But what’s it all about? For those of you who are Patreon-curious, the idea is very simple. In days of yore artistic types such as authors, poets, painters and musicians would have patrons who would help them to afford to live while they created their works of art. Patreon does the same thing, allowing people who want to support the arts or creation of something new to choose a person or project that they like and help to fund it.

“Starving Author” a self portrait by Craig Hallam

How is that different from Kickstarter, I hear you cry? Well, on Patreon you’re choosing a person that you believe in. You’re not taking one project, making it happen, then getting something at the end of it, you’re helping a person to reach their ongoing goals and receiving ongoing rewards as a thank you. An artists can have a monthly amount that they need to reach in order to be able to create full-time, or perhaps like myself they need help with the travel costs to attend events and book signings across the country. To me, that travel is absolutely essential to expanding and maintaining my readership. Also, instead of a one-off payoff like Kickstarter, patrons receive brand-new work from their favourite creators every month, often well before anyone else.

So, how hard is it to set up? Ridiculously easy. Within an hour or so I had my page ready to go. The system that they have in place is so easy to navigate through and the Patreon team have taken great pains to make sure that easy-to-read information is available on everything that you might be trying to do. The whole site is written with a chilled vibe and friendly atmosphere.

Two things to be aware of! You will need to submit your page for approval (to make sure that you’re not being sketchy) before it goes live. However, it took mine about two hours to come back so hardly a long wait. Secondly, you’ll need to fill out some kind of tax form. However, before you start to panic as I did, the forms are right there on the site, all clickable boxes, and Patreon has added super easy guidance so that you know what to put in each box. They then sort your tax FOR YOU. So anything that ends up in your bank account at the end of the month is yours and yours alone. No messing. How awesome is that?

Basically, I’m very happy with it so far. I think that this is exactly what struggling artistic types like me really need to be able to make beautiful things to share with you. I only have six patrons at the minute but I’m already half way to being able to afford the costs for one event table a month. That’s amazing! I really can’t express how lucky I feel to have such lovely people supporting me. And the real beauty of being a patron are the tiers. You can decide to be a patron for as much or as little a month as you like, and not only do you get the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping out your favourite artist (because every penny counts and is much appreciated) but you get to see some great new work, too.

My patrons are getting some really fun new material. Patreon is giving me an opportunity to share poetry, short stories and experiences that are just a bit different, a bit more vital or expressive or avant-garde that might struggle to get published elsewhere but I get to share it with you all, anyway. So far, patrons are getting access to:

  • Brand new spooky poetry for a collection called “Rhyme beyond Reason”
  • Also new poetry based on the Down Days novella about my experiences of living with anxiety and depression. This will be collected and printed, too.
  • A serialised novella, Oshibana Complex, which is a hopeful, philosophical, dystopian cyberpunk story featuring non-binary characters, all about the final evolution of humanity (whatever that may be…)
  • New and exclusive Alan Shaw stories just for patrons!

I’m also looking forward to meeting goals which will allow me to print the collections mentioned above and pay an artist as they should be to draw my Steampunk comic book, Aethertide. I’m eager for you to all meet Olivia and Raisa as they leap between dimensions.

All of these things are possible with Patreon and it’s a very exciting time. Because these are things that, once in print, I can not only take to the book signings, but also send to patrons before anyone else gets to see them.

What Patreon builds is a loving, interactive and supportive relationship between creator and patron. It really does give me the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on with me for the last two weeks. If Patreon sounds like something that you might be interested in either starting or joining, here’s the link:

If you would consider sharing the link around, I would really appreciate it. You’ll be helping me to build my career, creating wild new pieces of writing and maybe even eat at the same time 😀


As always, thanks for reading, folks.


Hi everyone,

Thanks to the encouragement of a few friends and, to be honest, necessity I’ve started a Patreon page!

That’s right, I’m fully embracing my love of Victorian literature by taking patrons as the likes of Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens did. To be realistic, we know that the wages of an author aren’t much. I’m sure that a lot of you can understand that getting around the country for book signings and conventions, paying table, accommodation and travel costs, can get pretty expensive, pretty quick. And so, I’ve had to look for ways to fund my travels. Basically, if I can’t get around, how do I spread the word about my books?

So, now I’m asking for folks to go take a look at the page. Just like a usual Patreon, there are several tiers that you can get involved in. Now, a small downside, if this is going to work, I’m going to have to put some fun things on there which means I’ll have to take them from the blog. The Tao of the Author column that I’ve been doing will be over there as part of the monthly newsletter. I need content, as I’m sure you guys will understand. From there the tiers will include poetry (some old for now but I have new stuff lined up as well), short stories with even some new Alan Shaw adventures that didn’t make the books, to brand new novellas that have never been seen before delivered chapter-by-chapter. The highest tier, if funding permits, will receive things such as badges, signed poems and hopefully poetry collections that I will be able to have printed with the Patreon proceeds.

From a purely selfish perspective, it’ll really help me to keep doing what I love, creating new work, and also sharing things with you that you might not have otherwise seen. I don’t want to horde my unprinted work. I want you guys to be able to read it!

There we go, anyway. I hope you’ll take a second to have a look, I’d really appreciate it.



Thanks for reading!

To the future!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a little quiet for a few weeks hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’m afraid the constant juggle between life and work has had me clinging to the underbelly of a runaway ostrich and blogging has been left behind in the dust cloud.

I have a few updates, however. I’ll be updating the Tour Dates page shortly with events that I’m booking for next year as they’re coming in thick and fast. The likes of Scarborough Sci-Fi Con and Worldcon in Dublin are a dead-cert with UK Indie Lit Fest and Steampunk Asylum in the works, too.

I can now confirm that Oshibana Complex, my non-gender specific cyberpunk novella, will be worked on by Inspired Quill around November next year. That means we’ll all have to wait a while for another book from me, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

In other news, I’m thinking about starting a Patreon. My main objective will be to help pay for table, travel and accommodation costs for future book signings as this year has been a tough one and I’ve had to say no more times than yes to event invites. That’s obviously not good for an author trying to get more readers and spread their work around. In terms of rewards, I’m thinking of offering monthly author tips, poetry and chapters of novellas that no one has ever seen, maybe even mixing in new Alan Shaw adventures that never made the books. What do you guys think? Do you have any other suggestions of things you’d like to see there? What would entice you? I’d appreciate any feedback and ideas that you all have to offer.

What else?

Ah, for those of you who are followers of Alan Shaw’s adventures, there is some good news. Firstly, the third and final book of the trilogy is going well. I’ve not had a lot of time lately but I keep picking at it and hopefully it’ll be ready for you sometime soon.

Secondly, a new Alan Shaw short story is being published in a sci-fi anthology (name to be confirmed) that will fill the gap between Alan Shaw and the Lovelace Code and Alan Shaw and the Wretched Revenge from Old Haunts (Alan Shaw book 2). For those of you who have been asking about how Alan got to Chicago in Wretched Revenge, this story will answer your questions.

I’ve been asked many times about what happens between the stories in the Alan Shaw books. Some people see the little leaps in time as tantalising questions to be answered. As I always tell people, there aren’t any gaps, only other adventures that didn’t make it into the books. Lots of them. In the coming months/years, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to share more of Alan’s stories with you.

Anyway, with that revelation hanging in the aether, I bid you all farewell. Until next time, my friends.

Embrace the Weird!


Thanks for reading.

Con Report: Steampunk Asylum X

Hi everyone,

The very giant Steampunk Asylum event was held last weekend in Lincoln’s historic quarter. It’s the biggest blow-out Steampunk extravaganza you could ever hope for. This year, with the event being a whole decade old, was even better.

I spent most of my time in the Assembly Rooms, a lovely Victorian building standing on the cobbles of Lincoln’s Historic Quarter where I had my stall alongside all the other authors and artists. It was a great atmosphere with the whole team getting along and pulling together to make it work (As I mentioned in last week’s post about reputation, these people really have got it right). That is mostly because the organisers of our little corner of the event were incredible, as always.

Tom and Nimue Brown are names that you’ll have heard me mention before. They are the artist and writer of the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels, a Gothic fantasy that is darker and prettier than anything you’ve ever seen (clicky clicky). They are also extremely organised, flexible and good-natured people.


I did a couple of talks of my own, which went very well with some readers reporting they skipped the proper talks [my emphasis] going on at the university and came to mine instead. How lovely is that? Anyway, after those, I had the esteemed pleasure of introducing the Hopeless, Maine Live section of the day where a team of writers of all kinds got together to perform work that has been inspired by the collective creative setting that Hopeless has become. It was utterly nerve-wracking. As I tweeted yesterday, there is nothing like being in love with someone’s work and then they ask you to introduce it. I really wanted to do them justice, and I think it went quite well. You can read my intro on the Hopeless, Maine website HERE and take a look at the wealth of cool stuff at the same time.

I was kept sane by my creatives:

  • Jade Sarson – Artist of the Cafe Suada webcomic, which is a great read, and host of Bitten By A Radioactive Podcast. You can find her on Twitter, too.
  • Chris Mole – Comic book writer of the Professor Elemental comics, he’s also currently running an already fully-funded Kickstarter for his comic, Brigantia. Which I had the pleasure of reading at Asylum. It’s absolutely beautiful and brilliantly written. You need it in your life. You can find him on Twitter, obviously.
  • Francesca Dare – A lovely person and excruciatingly talented artist, Fran is the brain and hand behind the Penny Blackfeather comic book. She’s a joy to follow on Twitter as she updates with new artwork pretty much every day. She’s also an avid D&D fan with a particular love of Drow.
  • Nils Visser – A fellow author of many books, my favourites are those that give a Steampunk twist to Poe or Shakespeare, although his novel, Amsterdammed, I have on good authority is very good as well. Twitterise him!

The whole weekend was a success, books-wise with lots of them flying off the stall, especially Alan Shaw, which I ran out of. That’s becoming a regular thing which is amazing. Readers came back to give some lovely feedback on The Adventures of Alan Shaw vol. 1 and Old Haunts (Alan Shaw vol. 2). Most people were coming back to see if book 3 was out yet but, alas, I haven’t even finished the first draft, yet. Old Haunts did only come out in April, so I think I’m doing ok 🙂

That’s all I can tell you, really. While the rest of the event sounded great, I was working pretty non-stop and driving home each day so I didn’t get to see much of it. The convention hangover was very real on Tuesday morning, but I had editing work to do so I couldn’t really rest up. A busy week from there on has led to me only writing this blog post an hour before it goes live, sat in my pyjamas which is very uncharacteristic of me (I’m an “if I’m up, I’m dressed” kind of person). Still, I’m sure I can forgive myself this one morning.

I hope, if you came to Asylum, that you enjoyed it as much as everyone else did. Thank you, from the dying embers of my cold little heart, to everyone who came for a chat, bought a book, or gave feedback. You are all very much appreciated and I’m constantly thankful for you all for allowing my dream to stay alive.


Thanks for reading!

I’m Not Here (Reputation)

Hi everyone,

As you read this, I’m not really here (spoooookyyyyyyy).

I’m in Lincoln, probably talking crap to a fellow author or artisty type in the Assembly Rooms as we wait for the hordes of people who will definitely buy our books and artwork…

…sure, sure they will 😀

Anyway, there isn’t much to tell you this week except where I’ll be and what I’ll be getting up to, just in case you feel like popping along to say hi and enjoy the event. At the end is a tip that has come to me out of this week. But first:

Steampunk Asylum is in it’s tenth year, this year. A full decade of taking over Lincoln’s historical quarter with Victorian Science Fiction splendour. I’ll be in the Assembly Rooms (timetable of events here)  with all the other authors and artists, trying to pretend I’m as smart as them (and failing :D).

And now the tip! It’s dead simple, but fundamentally important.

Be Nice

To every author who gripes, complains, or gets involved in things they shouldn’t, this does nothing for your professional reputation. I’m not perfect by a long shot, but I try to always be nice to the organisers of events, I’m flexible as to where they put me and infinitely grateful when they offer a free table or opportunity to do a reading or a talk (even though I still get nervous as hell, years into the job). I also don’t get involved in competitiveness and politics that can sometimes surround our work. There will always be a teeny group in your medium/fandom trying to be the Grand Overlord. No matter what your geeky sub-culture, there will be an elitist caste. These are not people to associate with. Be civil, and move away. It’s easy and good for you to just say, “I’d rather not get involved, thank you”. I’m here to enjoy my writing and have a chat with like-minded geeks and enthusiasts who come to say hello. That’s where the joy comes, and where my attention stays.

Your professional reputation is your entire existence. Be true to your principles, your ideals, but be the most civil and open-minded version that you can possibly be. People appreciate that. And, after you’ve been you for a while, the word spreads. I have had zero editing work from random people on the internet. I have had a lot from people I’ve met at conventions, had friendly chats with on Twitter, or from friends of those people. My requests tend to start with “Such-and-such who you met at time-and-place said you help people with their writing”. Word gets around, you see. And those little editing jobs are how I pay for travel costs, food, table fees and accommodation (I tend to sofa-surf where possible, mind you). Without the editing work, I wouldn’t be able to get to events. Without being friendly, non-competitive and avoiding the BS, I wouldn’t be able to follow my dream.

So, being nice is not only a way to live, but a huge boon to you being able to follow your dream, and possibly make a career out of it.


Thanks for reading!

Steampunk Asylum X

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to drop a quick blog post to you all about a pretty exciting event coming up. Next weekend, on the 27th and 28th of August, the tenth annual Steampunk Asylum event will take over the historic quarter of the fair city of Lincoln.

For those of you who have never been, it’s an amazing event jam-packed with spectacular sights and experiences. And I do not evoke the name of the mighty preserve lightly!

As part of the whole event which will see thousands of people descend into Lincoln for Retro-futuristic adventures, the Assembly Rooms (a great building nestled between the Cathedral and Castle) will be host to one of the greatest concentrations of insanely creative people that has ever occurred. And then I’ll also be there, like the mascot monkey that people pity and tolerate 😀

Anyways, check out this amazing list of creatives and what they’ll have on offer right here:

I’ll personally guarantee that you’ll find something you love.


Thanks for reading!