Go big or go home

Hi everyone,

This morning, this author has submitted a story to one of the most prestigious magazines on the planet. My novella, Emi, is winging its way to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, as we speak (or as I type).

Now, let’s not get excited. I think that F&SF is the second longest running magazine of its kind, and possibly the highest selling. This is a huge market. Also, Emi is a little longer than they typically accept and will probably have to be serialised, which is something that they haven’t done since…well, a long time. The only one I actually know of (as a non-reader) is The Gunslinger by Stephen King. So, you see what kind of high expectations the magazine has.

With all that in mind, my chances of getting in are particularly slim. Wafer thin. Leaf on the wind light, and just as easy to blow away.

But, if we don’t try, we don’t succeed, am I right?

If I’m unsuccessful, there is an upcoming open submissions for Tor Books’ novella imprint that I’ll have a go at. That one is similarly unlikely. But after I’ve been rejected by those two, at least I can say that I gave it a go and then move on to other publications.

If any fledgling authors such as myself are reading this, then I hope you take heed of these words. Go big or go home. Try everything. By only going for “smaller” magazines etc, you’re selling yourself short. Let someone else turn down your work, don’t do it for them. You see, a rejection slip isn’t someone saying to you, “this is the worst thing I’ve ever written. You should give up.” Unless, of course, it literally says that. Generally, rejection slips are from someone who has a thousand submissions to get through, who has a very tight criteria to adhere to, and who must, for the sake of their sanity and their job, make pretty quick decisions about the fiction that they accept.

In order to be accepted to a publication, your work has to hit their eye-line at the exact moment that they’ve had their coffee and the sugar from that donut has worked its way into their system. It has to be the right time of day. Not too early that they’re half asleep, not too late that they’ve read a hundred submissions already.

Basically, if the person considering your work is not too tired, not too wired, not trudging through a fictional mire, and ready to hire, then you’re on to a winner.

And if not, then try somewhere else. Or, if you want to be sneaky, then take any advice they give, rewrite, and resubmit to the same place. You never know. Next time, you might hit their sweet spot.

I’ll keep you updated with how it goes.


Thanks for reading, folks.


Moving along nicely

Hi everyone!

Well, things are finally looking like they’re hotting up in my little bubble of existence. I’ve finally gotten some writing flow back, after months of creative drought. Just in the last week, I’ve written the opening chapter to Alan Shaw’s third volume of adventures, poetry (which I still suck at but enjoy) and been catching up on articles and blog posts that people have been waiting for for months.

More than that, Inspired Quill have started the editing process with The Adventures of Alan Shaw volume 2 and apparently it’s going well. I had a lovely compliment from Sara, The Boss, who asked if I’d already sent it to an editor beforehand. For someone with crushing confidence issues, that really meant a lot. It’s hard to tell if you’re improving as a writer, or whether you’re just coasting. It seems I might actually be learning! Who knew that was possible, eh?

In other news, my blog on living with depression, Down Days, has now had over 3000 views. It shot up by about 200 in a single day when I posted yesterday in an unexpected explosion of interest. How nice is that? If you have any experiences to share, poems, posts, or artwork, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. It’s very rewarding to share your story, both cathartic and helpful for others.

Well, I’ll let you get back to your weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Alan Shaw and the Hand of Glory: Cover reveal!

The book’s fourth adventure finds Alan in Brighton where he meets his adopted brother and his new fiance. When they decide to visit a circus on the outskirts of town, they’re witness to a series of obscure events which sets off alarm bells for Alan. Who is the dark man bearing the Ordo Fenris insignia which Alan remembers all too well. What does he want from the circus’ macabre museum. And has he come alone?

alan_shaw_5 copy


Coming next, the final installment: Alan Shaw and the Brass Monkeys.


Embrace the weird!

Alan Shaw and the Universal Formula: Cover reveal

In this third installment, Alan returns home to London to attend the Grand Exhibition with a pretty Greek chemist, Adrienne, on his arm. But the Grand Exhibition is attacked by goggled thieves who steal an ancient artifact and escape from the roof on winged contraptions. In true Shaw style, Alan takes it upon himself to hunt down the thieves, only to get himself embroiled in an ancient mystery which is coming to a close on the streets of London…



Coming next: Alan Shaw and the Hand of Glory.


Embrace the weird!

Sock Puppeting Authors: A Rant

I apologise in advance, but this is going to be a rant. As regular readers will know (I hope) I don’t go “off on one” about subjects very often. But this article in the Guardian has really got my goat.


One of the dreams that so many people share is to write a book. I honestly believe that this comes from a deep-rooted compulsion that was instilled in us at an early evolutionary level which compels us to tell stories. That’s why oral traditions from ancient civilisations are still told today, why cave paintings exist and heiroglyphs were invented. We all love to tell stories, to be heard and enjoyed, and to be passed on to others. A story is a little slice of immortality for us finite beings (if you want to go existential about it). And that’s why we write. Our books are our stories, our gift to others, our legacy. As long as a print copy of Greaveburn exists somewhere in the world, someone might read it, and enjoy it, and then pass it on. It’s a positive virus (I’m seriously mixing my metaphors here, apologies).

And, whether this is arrogant or not, I see myself as a professional. I am an author. I write things. Sometimes they’re poo, sometimes they’re ok. But I craft words and that makes me an author none-the-less. Therefore, I will conduct myself in a professional manner. We’ve talked about the quality of some self-published works in previous posts and how people do themselves a disservice with impatience and a non-professional approach. But we who have taught ourselves to be authors have very little guidance and so it can be forgiven. However, what I expect from people who write for a living, is an ounce of decorum.

And so we’re brought to the subject of this most dispicable “sock puppetry”, as it’s been dubbed. I won’t go over the content of the article as I’ve linked it above and I’ll let you come to your own interpretation of it. But I’ve seen this happen elsewhere and my heckles are officially up. Goodreads is a fantastic platform. The forums, the reviews, the ability to find books that you might like. A great idea. But what it also allows you to do is to review your own work…without even needing a pseudonym. Who came up with that? Just today I’ve been scanning through some potential reading material and caught a few authors (who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) not only reviewing their own work, but rating it as well. With five stars!

Now, as an aside, you will note that Not Before Bed has a review from myself stating that it is, indeed, the new edition with new stories. However, that review has no bearing on the star rating. It’s for information only, and doesn’t affect the stats. I made sure.

Readers, writers, friends, we have a decision to make. What do we do about this blatant deception? Without sounding anti-establishment or revolutionary, the larger companies will do absolutely nothing to jeapordise their cash flow. They’ll never get rid of an author’s listing as long as it’s bringing in the green. But we have power online. You’ve seen it happen with memes and virals and petitions and forums. We can do something about this.

I in no way want to sway any of you. What you think about this “sock puppetry” is your own opinion. This is mine. This is what I’d like to see, but not what I expect from you. I can’t imagine that any of us would go and buy these people’s books, now, anyway. So there’s the statement made already. And the fact that the authors involved in the Guardian have apologised is surely enough. But others are still out there, schemeing and engineering their ratings for the sake of cheap appreciation.

And (IMHO as the kids say) but I say we douse these sods with negative ratings. Show the world that we, as readers, have integrity and won’t be lied to. What I DON’T want to see are derogatory or negative comments. Don’t lower yourselves. We’re not Trolls, or virtual rioters and looters, but people with opinions that count. We can make a statement with a silent but glaring one star rating to show our distaste. Then we leave, knowing that millions of others will see and understand what we’ve done, and why. We go back to the authors who deserve our adoration and respect because they work hard, and write well, and tell us stories that live and breathe.

What I will say is keep your eye out, folks. Let’s make sure we maintain the high values that Literature has always stood for.


As always, thanks for reading.


As you can see, my little blog has had a make-over. I’ve retro-fitted the whole thing with a slightly Steampunky edge in a homage to the recent acceptance of Greaveburn to Inspired Quill (IQ) publishing. In the true Steampunk tradition, I’ll no doubt be tinkering away at it for quite some time but the rivets and stanchions are there for now.

Speaking of Steampunk and Greaveburn, I’ve recently bought tickets to the Asylum Weekend Convention 2012 in Lincoln’s historic city. A whole weekend of ‘punkery with loads of great exhibitions, entertainments and of course the fabled Bazaar Eclectica where ‘punks fence their wares. I’ve been in touch with Tinker, the convention’s organiser, and he’s been kind enough to offer me a spot in the exhibition area. So there’ll be me (in my neo-victorian gear, by Jove!) and copies of Greaveburn for sale and even signing if you’re that way inclined.

But there’s more…the enthusiastic and very helpful Tinker has also offered me a spot on a panel, potentially alongside the likes of Robert Rankin, Toby Frost, Sam Stone and others! Of course, I accepted, but I’m PETRIFIFED.

It strikes me that the good thing about going nowhere with my writing is that I always know what to do. All of a sudden I’m very far from home with no map and the nagging sensation that I’m going to make an ass out of myself! Still…I’m excited enough that I’ve completely forgone sleep since signing to IQ.


In other news…I’ve re-released Not Before Bed in print (only from the american Amazon, I’m afraid) but it’s also now available for your Kindle (all over the globe). I know, the sensibility isn’t very Steampunk but than again neither is Not Before Bed. I think those short stories deserved one last flourish of attention before I pass it into the hands of fate entirely. While my Horror writing has served me well with some great publications that I’m very proud of  and practice with submissions etc. I think I’ve moved on, now. Not Before Bed was an earlier me, one who was still finding his feet. Greaveburn is the next step in the journey, not away from those much-loved old stories and everything they taught me, but moving a little down the road to where there are whole new set of things to learn.

And I can’t wait to start!


Thanks for reading.

How far can writers go…? (Here be Vampires)


Recently on Twitter, I had a rant (if that’s possible in 140 characters). It was regarding my three cardinal rules of Vampirism; rules that, for me, should never be broken no matter what. They are:

1. Vampires go cripsy in the sunlight.

2. There is NO cure.

3. They’re hungry and you’re what’s for dinner, not their BFF.

A follower replied with a good counter argument, the fact that the most famous vampire in the world breaks one of those rules. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the eponymous character does indeed walk around in the daylight. I argued the toss, of course, and pointed out several factors which exempted Dracula from that rule but I wont discuss them here. Maybe a later post, if anyone’s interested.

But the debate brought up a good question. How far can a writer remove their characters from the existing tropes before it becomes TOO removed?

Let’s stick with the Vampires for this one.


As far as I’m concerned, this is a Vampire. Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are creepy, scary and will nosh on your neck as soon as look at you. Vampires are supposed to be scary. And I’ll admit that these films are responsible for much of feelings toward the Vampire trope. When Lee clutches his hands to his face against the sunlight and turns into something resembling the contents of a men’s Working Club ashtray, it hit me as petrifyingly cool. But their source material, the original Dracula novel, breaks the Rules. Bram Stoker took the myths/legends/folk tales and warped them to the benefit of his book. Dracula is seen on several occasions throughout the day. Also, he isn’t killed by a wooden stake (which Stoker states as the weapon of choice) but by knives.


Now let’s think about Stephanie Meyer. I personally don’t rate the Twilight saga very highly. Sorry. But I’m firmly in Team Stoker. It isn’t the romantic element. Dracula is a gothic romance itself (especially if you watch the Gary Oldman movie version). Anne Rice’s awesome Interview series is more sex than scare and I still love those first few books (lost interest after that, mind). But Meyer breaks my cardinal sins twice. Edward Cullen not only shines like a fairy in sunlight, but manages to be an utter nonce in the blood-sucking department too. Bella should be lunch. A thousand times over.

But now I’m going to argue against myself. Is Meyer’s vampiric interpretation any worse that Stoker’s? He makes vamps able to walk in the daylight, she makes them sparkly. Is there such a difference other than aesthetically?

Not really. But those two novels split readers into opposing camps.

Since I’m obviously incapable of answering this one myself, the question goes to you. How far can a writer take something away from the original material before it becomes a bastardisation, or a renewal of tired tropes? Are we bending the rules to keep it fresh or ignoring them completely? I can think of examples which do both. Let’s see what you lot think…


Thanks for reading