My Week In Writing (24/09/17)

shrink final

I’ve been busy! The above is where my novel is currently sitting, roughly speaking – it’s shrunk down a little more since then (about another hundred words) but you get the idea. I’ve renewed my subscription to Agent Hunter, and I have… a variety of query letter resources tabbed. It’s on!

In other news: Annique is sitting just shy of 35k, which is surprisingly short, given how long I’ve been working on it. It’s a strange project and while I’m determined to finish it, in all honesty once it’s done I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything with it.

I also started two new stories: one is tentatively titled Quiet, Loud and is about a werewolf who becomes an interdimensional police office. It’s part of the collection I’ve been working on and of all the stories I’ve written so far, it’s the one that I think would make the least sense to, um, people who aren’t me.

The other one is for Shoreline of Infinity’s flash fiction contest and it’s 371 words long, at present. I’m remaining hopeful that I can get it written in 1000 words or less by the end of the week – I’ve already had to scrap one idea for being too complicated.

I’m three episodes deep into The Night Witches, which is very enjoyable, so far. It’s what Big Finish does best – four episodes of solid Doctor Who. Looking forward to finishing it off.

I listened to the first episode of Doom Coalition 4, which was very strong and I really hope the rest of the boxset follows through.

I finished reading The Shock of the Fall (review forthcoming) and started reading The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden, which I’ve been looking forward to. I also reviewed Room on Goodreads.

Next week I’m off to the literary salon (hopefully – I didn’t make it to the creative salon) and settling back into work after a short and impromptu holiday.


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My Week In Writing (17/09/17)

20170905_185544Whoops, I took a bit of a, er, unintentional week-long hiatus there. I’ve been busy! But not with anything interesting, sadly.

First off, the big news: my short story The Pit is going to be in Microtext 3, an upcoming anthology from Medusa’s Laugh. They’re open for submissions right now (750 word limit) and you can tell they have great taste cause they accepted me, so go send them something.

Anyway, getting accepted generally puts me in the mood to submit more short stories, so I’ve sent something off to F&SF and I’m planning to submit to another anthology in a couple of days.

This week, I’ve been listening to more Doom Coalition. I finished volume 3 today and I’m super pumped for volume 4. Definitely the best volume so far, absolutely phenomenal cliffhanger. I’m working on a full review, so watch this space.

I also started listening to The Night Witches, which is a release I’ve been looking forward to for… literally years. As yet it hasn’t disappointed! Wonderful concept for a historical and it’s always a joy to listen to a story narrated by Anneke Wills.

And there’ll be another one next month! I didn’t love the last run of Second Doctor adventures so I’m trying not to get too excited but the last season of the Early Adventures (featuring the First Doctor) was really strong so hopefully this season will be something special. The summaries are certainly tantalising!

I finished reading Strata and reviewed it on Goodreads and then I blazed through Room in two days flat. I also read Doctor Second, which was a delight and totally a necessary purchase.

Next up I’m reading The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, a charity shop impulse buy. I’ve also picked up a couple of miniature volumes of poetry (Robert Burns and Emily Dickinson) which I’m planning to read pretty soon.

My novel is shrinking down nicely:


My goal is 125k, so I’m getting there! 26 more pages to edit.

My other project, Annique is sitting at 33k and rising. Still not sure it’s going to work out. I’ll probably use it for my NaNoWriMo project this autumn, so if I haven’t figured it out my November adding another 50k to it should help. Prooobably.

Since my last update, I’ve been to Inky Fingers at Monkey Barrel Comedy and to Shoreline of Infinity’s special Event Horizon with Ken Mcleod. Great stuff.

And I’ve been watching the new season of Rick and Morty, which for all its faults (there are many) has been putting out a really phenomenal run of episodes. I’m excited for the finale.

Next week: I’m going to finish Night Witches, and on Tuesday I’m off to the Creative Salon at Summerhall. I’m also probably going to get my novel down to size, which means I’ll be moving on to the next stage… the dreaded query letter. I have no idea how to write one of those. Oh dear.

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Review: Doom Coalition 2

20160301221855dw8ddc02_slipcase_1417sq_cover_largeVolume two of Doom Coalition picks up exactly where it left off, and like any good Doctor Who season, it’s a strange mix of stories, going from the English countryside to distant future, to the Time Vortex itself.

Now that the series has hit its stride, it’s lost that slightly gimmicky feel that the first boxset had. This is what the Eighth Doctor Adventures are now: this is Doom Coalition.

Beachhead: The boxset’s only standalone, and in time-honoured fashion, a ‘the Doctor tries to take his companions on a nice holiday and everything goes horribly wrong’ story. In this case, he takes them to a wet, sleepy village on the English coast – only to be confronted by mysterious flooding and an alien spacecraft.

The Voord, one of Doctor Who’s earliest alien menances (first appearing in The Keys of Marinus in 1964), put in an appearance but unlike in their other Big Finish stories, the Voord aren’t given much development here, though their presence is a nice bit of continuity.

Beachhead is most interesting not for its plot but for its backstory, which hinges on a tragic mistake the Doctor made several regenerations ago. Over the course of the story, he learns that his earlier actions had fatal consequences, and though he saves the village (and the earth) from the Voord, there’s nothing he can do to make it right.

Scenes From Her Life: another story that reminded me somewhat of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who at its best. Landing in a dying TARDIS suspended in the time vortex, the Doctor finds an eccentric group of Time Lords and a small army of prisoners… including a young Gallifreyan psychic, Caleera, horribly abused.

Flashbacks fill in the backstory and Caleera quickly wins the audience’s – and the Doctor’s companions’ – sympathies, but not everything is as it seems and there’s a dark final twist.

It’s atmospheric, chilling, and listening to the central mystery unfold was a delight. More like this, I hope.

The Gift: Hot on the trail of the Eleven and his allies, the Doctor lands in San Francisco on the eve of the 1906 earthquake. Disoriented by a strange psychic force, he’s separated from Liv and Helen and soon they’re all embroiled in the local intrigue – a production of King Lear, the mob, and a mysterious Gift passed from man to man.

I found the sci-fi element in The Gift a touch tedious. Fortunately, the setting is so intriguing in and of itself that I didn’t care. The story ticks down to the inevitable carnage, the Doctor and co unable to do anything more than prevent the psychic threat bearing down on the city.

I think I’d have preferred to see the 1906 earthquake in a historical story, but The Gift was still very enjoyable. And it ends with quite a hook…

The Sonomancer: The Doctor finds a note left on the TARDIS console, with co-ordinates leading him to a strange volcanic world, and two words: hello sweetie.

It’s River Song, on a mission of mercy, and her message arrived too early. She’s on a race against time to save the planet and its people from a volcanic cataclysm brought on by Caleera – now calling herself the Sonomancer – and the Eleven. And lest she damage her own time line, the Doctor can’t know she’s there.

Meanwhile, River has no clue that she’s dealing with two dangerously unstable Time Lords.

This is an action-packed finale, with a breakneck pace, lot of threads, and a lot of dramatic battles fought over bubbling lava pits. All of the characters are shown at their best here, Liv and Helen both shining in their own way, River a delight as always, the Doctor vulnerable till the last.

I think it does suffer a bit from having (presumably) been written before The Husbands of River Song – it has a very different and, unfortunately, less interesting idea of what River might get up to when the Doctor’s not around. Or maybe her claiming to never do anything for as ‘vulgar’ a goal as money was intended to be in-character hypocrisy.

I was also a little disappointed to see the Eleven relegated to a henchman in what I was expecting to be his own boxset. I wouldn’t mind, except Caleera wasn’t explored as much as I’d have liked either and seemed to be dispatched far too quickly. Hopefully she’ll be back in volume 3 – I’m avoiding spoilers.

Verdict: Overall, I enjoyed this boxset more than it’s predecessor. It never quite hit the same highs, but I found the quality and tone more consistent. The new villain, Caleera, is introduced fabulously and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with the character in the future.

Scenes from her Life was, for me, the highlight, and I’m happy to say there wasn’t really a weak link – I don’t think I could single out a least favourite. Hopefully Doom Coalition will keep on getting better – there promises to be more River, so fingers crossed and hello sweetie!



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My Week In Writing (03/09/17)

Well, September’s here. I don’t feel ready.  August’s been a strange month, what with starting a new job – it’s only my second time doing that! The good news is, my contract will probably be extended by another twelve weeks. After that, I don’t know.

There’s a big reshuffle coming up and I don’t know if my job will survive that, and honestly, that thought comforts me a bit. I don’t want to get stuck in another document processing job.

So, my week: I finished my round of edits on Summer and can now, with zero fanfare, announce that the final title will probably be The Summer Masque.

I’m calling this ‘The Wizards of Albion Trilogy’:

  1. The Summer Masque
  2. The Standing Stone
  3. The Bridge City

I’m excited! And since the final draft was, um, 147,000 words, I’m now working hard to get it edited down to a more reasonable length. Current progress:


How I have more characters on the right, I have no idea. Ah, well. It’s getting there. I’m hoping to get it down to 125k and that’s looking doable. And then… querying.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my new WIP which is… unfocused and honestly I’m struggling with the main character in a big way. But it’s sitting just shy of 30k and I have a good idea where I’m going with the next act.

This week, I’ve been reading Strata, which is slow going, but enjoyable. Reading it right on the heels of The Dark Side of the Sun might have been a mistake!

I also listened to The British Invasion, a brand new Second Doctor era story from Big Finish. Good stuff. Full review forthcoming, hopefully.

And I’ve been listening to Doom Coalition 3, which is shaping up to be my favourite installment so far. Absent Friends was just gorgeous. Plus, more River Song, and for some reason she’s dressed like a nun.

So, that was my week! And now, I’m going to go and update my current projects page.

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Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2


Last week, I finally got to read Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2, the Edinburgh Book Festival Special Edition. Strictly speaking, I could have read it as soon as it came out – I had a digital contributor copy, but I like reading physical books.

It’s a great little collection, and I’m immensely proud to be a part of it, alongside some really great authors. (I hold out that my story isn’t nearly good enough, but people seem to disagree!)

There’s a selection of stories from early issues of Shoreline of Infinity including The Great Golden Fish by Dee Raspin, The Stilt-Men of the Lunar Swamps by Andrew J. Wilson, and, of course, 3.8 Missions by yours truly. Most of the returning stories were ones I remembered, in some cases vividly, and I can recommend all of them.

And then (for me, the really exciting part) there’s an assortment of new stories, contributed by SF authors reading at the book festival. They’re a diverse mix, but Shoreline of Infinity has always been a diverse magazine:

Edinburgh Masks by Adam RobertsI stumbled on Adam Roberts a few years ago, and have something of a love-hate relationship with his work. His books are strange, often frustrating reads, and yet whenever I find one in a bookshop I invariably buy it because the premise is just so… enticing.

He’s also one of the most versatile authors I’ve encountered, so I’m not surprised that I was surprised by Edinburgh Masks. It’s a new spin on some classic, Victorian themes, not at all the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a sci-fi collection. But Shoreline of Infinity being what it is, it fits in well here.

Lowland Clearances by Pippa Goldschmidt: a very strange, very short little story, and for me one of the highlights of the collection. It’s set in an unspecified point in the future that, while very strange, feels very close to home, almost contemporary. Is it optimistic or just unsettling? I’m not sure, but I can’t help recommending it.

The Honey Trap by Ruth EJ Booth: I’ve been reading Ruth EJ Booth’s Noise and Sparks column in Shoreline with interest, so I was even more interested to read her fiction. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not my cup of tea… for very specific and very personal reasons which I won’t go into.

It’s a great pity, because otherwise I really enjoyed The Honey Trap. It’s one of those SF stories that offers full immersion, throwing you into its world and letting you learn the rules as you go. If you’re, well, not me, you’ll probably love it.

Whimper by Nalo Hopkinson: I hadn’t come across Nalo Hopkinson before hearing her perform at Event Horizon and the more of her work I read(/listen to) the more convinced I am that I’ve been missing out. (In fact, I’m going to go and look up her books right now and stick some on my Goodreads list).

Absolutely the strangest story in the collection and, in my opinion, the best. Another story that throws you into its world and leaves you dizzy. I love it, I won’t spoil it, and I look forward to re-reading it.

New Gray Ring to Join the Olympic Five by Ada Palmer: Finally, a short essay-style piece. It’s written in the style of a newspaper article reporting the titular change to the Olympic rings. Does the gray ring represent Anarctica or the Moon? Seemingly neither.

I generally like this style of fiction, but although well-crafted this one left me a bit cold. I’m going to chalk it up to my not really caring about the Olympics!

The collection also features non-fiction by Ken MacLeod, Charles Stross and Shoreline editor Iain Maloney, excerpts from the ongoing Beachcomber comic and SF Caledonia series and a selection of poems including work by Iain M Banks and Jane Yolen.

You can buy it right over here, in ebook and print formats, starting at £3.50. I’d really recommend checking it out, and not just because I’m in it. If you’re new to Shoreline this is a great place to jump in, and if you’ve read it before, you’re sure to love it.

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My Week In Writing (27/08/17)

20170826_142243Well, the festival’s nearly over. I haven’t taken in as much theatre as I’d have liked, but I suppose there’s still time!

This week, I went to see Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites at the National Museum.

The artefacts on display weren’t, for the most part, especially interesting to me, but the whole experience was really great.

I’d heard some complaints about how it represented the Jacobites themselves (in particular, there being almost no references to Gaelic speakers) but having seen it for myself I’m not especially troubled. It’s very clearly an exhibition about the Stuarts in exile, not about the ordinary Jacobites.

It’s a very heavy exhibition and gets heavier as you go along, but it also includes this delightful tartan suit so… I don’t really have a point. They’d put shoes on the suit, which made it look a lot less silly.

Then I went on a little trip to see Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2 for sale in the book festival shop, which was very exiting and very stuffy.

I finished reading The Dark Side of the Sun and reviewed it on Goodreads, and also worked through a little backlog of book reviews. And I read Shoreline 8 1/2, or the new short stories, anyway.  Thoroughly recommended, and not just because I’m in it.

I also finished a round of edits on my novel, so I’m now working very diligently to edit it down to a more reasonable length. It’s lost 2000 words already, and hopefully I can keep the pace up. So far it’s fiddly and a bit tedious, but not actually difficult.

Next week, I’m planning to start reading Strata and, hopefully, get another 7-10,000 words out of my novel.


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2017 Books

Between job interview prep and the new job, I’m swamped this week. So: I thought I’d cheat a bit, and share some thoughts on some of the books I’ve read this year, since we’re now somewhat past the midpoint of 2017.

On closer inspection, I’ve read 37 books this year and reviewed… well, quite a lot of them. So I whittled my list down to five which I’d most recommend. (Links where possible go to my Goodreads reviews.)

17283497The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon: In a word, phenomenal. I’m struggling to think of anyone I don’t think would enjoy it (though it has some one-star reviews so evidently some people out there hated it!) It’s not perfect, but it’s insightful and grand in its scope and I had a great time.


23156005The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen: Grabbed it in a charity shop while killing time before an appointment, and very glad I did. A rare book about writers and writing that isn’t the ‘sad, aging straight white male’ variety. Creepy, melancholy, and strangely inspiring. (Even if very obviously written by a man.)

10474369Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay: “This is another of those books that really warrants an essay… Red Dust Road is a very personal reflection on family and ethnic and racial identity. It’s a fascinating and moving read.”


24999117Steven Universe: Too Cool For School: “(it) will resonate with anyone who’s ever been the shy kid or the new kid in the class (both, in my case). And it blends nicely with Steven Universe’s usual brand of sci-fi – the clash between ordinary humans and the Crystal Gems is always a delight.”

24933757The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin: “In a word, stunning.”

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