Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Through A Crystal Ball, Darkly.

I'm thrilled Alban Lake has just published my story, Through A Crystal Ball, Darkly, in Outposts of Beyond #6.

This is now the fifth time I've been published by Alban Lake.  My work can be found in both Outposts of Beyond and Disturbed Digest. Thanks, Alban.

The October issue of Outposts of Beyond, featuring science fiction and fantasy tales, should be available from tomorrow  in both print and e-format. I will update this post as soon as links and further information become available.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I think it was 1995 when I first got internet access. I was living in Japan at the time, and it opened up the world for me. I was suddenly able to research stuff, something I've always loved doing.

Take XTC, for example. During my time in Tokyo I fell in love with this band and their albums. I'd heard a track or two in 1982, but nothing since. A friend recommended them to me, and I was hooked. Of course I knew nothing about them, where they were from, their history. And so I signed up for The Little Express, a fanzine out of Canada.   It arrived a couple of times a year, I devoured it from cover to cover, and then read them over and over.

It was through these pages I was first contacted by Danny, my penpal and friend.

Once I got the internet, I found Chalkhills, the online equivalent. Their mailing list kept me up to date on news, information and releases. At its height I would receive updates a couple of times a day. (Particularly during the late 90s French Trombone scandal - yes, I was there for that.)

In 2009, when I first met Paul Haines, we realised we were both XTC fans. We also discovered we'd been reading each others posts on the Chalkhills mailing list for 15 years. This was one of the shared reference points which resulted in us becoming friends, and Paul becoming my mentor.

In the past few years the frequency of updates had fallen to only a couple a year. This was partly due to the sheer amount of information available on the web, but mostly due to the band (and its members) having pretty much gone into musical retirement.

Which is a shame - both the mailing list, but also the cessation of releases.

And so, last month, Chalkhills buried the mailing list. The website, which is a fantastic archive of all things XTC, is still active.

Thanks to the Chalkhills community which kept me entertained and informed all those years. But mostly thanks to John Relph for running the whole show.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two Deadlines.

I'm currently working on two stories, both of which I need to finish by the middle of next week.

One of them is fine - it's sailing along nicely. I'm expanding it, because it needs to be a little longer than it currently is. It's been critted by some of the scariest minds I know and their comments have been taken into account.

The other story, on the other hand, is causing me headaches. I know roughly where I want it to go. I've decided to just write it and see what happens. Let the details take care of themselves. Unfortunately I'm only 1500 words in, and I'm kind of stuck. I know what I have to write, I know the scene I want to write, but it's just not writing.

Lunch, some coffee, and back into it.

With deadlines, these things have a way of working themselves out.

See you on the other side.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


This week I've mostly been playing old albums, albums from the early 70s - a time when I was first getting into music. As a kid I was in a youth group, and so had a bunch of friends who were a few years older then me. These friends introduced me to their music, which often meant I was the only kid in class who listened to these bands. Of course I listened to what was popular as well, but mostly it's those older ones that have stuck with me.

I've played some Deep Purple, some Mountain, some Ten Years After and some Free this week. Musicians playing real instruments, who could play the crap out of them. Drums with tone and timbre, keyboards that sounded analog, not digital. Guitar solos which make you want to weep cos you can feel the pain. Singers with range, melody and voices.

I watched Jeff Lynne's ELO concert, which was Jeff and Richard Tandy, and a bunch of hired hands. His first show in 28 years. I cranked it, loved the opening tracks - but about halfway through I was getting bored. Why? Because the versions had no drive, no oomph, no punch. Those hired hands sounded exactly like hired hands. Technically perfect, but they weren't invested in the music. I later threw on an ELO disc, and the difference was night and day. It rocked.

Yeah, I know I'm getting older. And I know that music speaks to me because I was there. I recognise all that - but it's my music and I love it. There are some modern bands who manage it, who speak to my soul. But I still love my past.

I've also become a little obsessed with the image of a jigsaw puzzle I once owned. I used to do them quite often, when I was younger, and there was one I had which I wish I still had. My memory may be imperfect, but I remember it like this. It's a photograph along a cobbled street in Europe, with an outdoor cafe. Set in the late 60s, I think. I think there was probably a harbour on the right, with boats and yachts. Everyone is simply enjoying the sun, eating, drinking. I remember a few people wearing RayBan style sunglasses. No one pays any attention to the camera - except one kid who is gazing directly at the lens, and therefore, at me.

I've tried hunting for this photo online. I'd love to see it again. And there'd be a tip of the hat to anyone who could point me in the right direction.

What does all of this mean? Nothing, except I've had a week of nostalgia, and it's been great.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scottish Independence.

I haven't previously posted or commented on Scottish Independence. Mostly because I didn't feel it impacted on me enough to entitle me to a say.

But I've come to realise it will affect me and my family.

I was born in Scotland but we emigrated when I was a year old. I still have citizenship and possess a European/UK passport. My parents receive a British pension.

How would I vote if I could?

I don't really know. I'm not up on all the information. I haven't thought about it in those terms. I think I agree with my father, though. "My heart says 'yes', my head says 'no'."

Scots, think wisely on this. It's a big decision and affects a lot of people.

Good luck.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Swings, Hits And Misses.

I was fortunate enough to attend Worldcon this year. I've decided I don't write con reports as well as others, so apart from saying London was great, I met some fantastic people and had a fun time, you won't get a report out of me.

I returned a couple of weeks ago, and have since been catching up on my teaching,  marking student work and writing reports for the end of term. Despite this it has been quite a busy time on the writing front.

I went through the edits on The Last of the Butterflies, the story Coeur de Lion will publish in two weeks time. (Dimension6 #3) I wrote the article that will accompany it, rewrote it, then wrote it again until I was happy with it.  I subbed two stories, received a rejection, and made a sale.

The rejection was unexpected (and undeserved - ha), while the sale was even more unexpected. More news on that when I'm permitted. It is such a very good sale, too.

But I finish teaching for the term in a couple of days, and then I have two weeks off. And I have plans. Writing plans. Lots of writing plans.

I can't wait.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Revisiting The Past.

I recently decided I wanted to revisit some of the series of novels I loved when I was younger. I looked at my Julian May (The Saga of the Exiles) series, my E.E. 'Doc' Smith (Lensmen) series, Stephen Donaldson (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) series, my Stephen Lawhead (Pendragon Cycle) series, my Christopher Stasheff (Warlock) series, my Isaac Asimov (Foundation) series, and more. I also realised it has been years since I'd even touched a fantasy novel. Far too long.

Fantasy books are renown for being ridiculously thick. And I must admit that's one of the things that has deterred me from reading the fantasy series by George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan. I want to read the newer Thomas Covenant books, but first I have to go back and re-read the original six. I also want to read the newer Hitchhiker's Guide book, but first I need to go back and read the first five. In the end, I opted for alternating between Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams, and The Belgariad series, by David Eddings.

Firstly, neither series of books are too thick. All eleven books are about the size of two novels by George R.R. Martin. Secondly, I have fond memories of reading them, although my memory of the Belgariad is limited to the first few chapters. And thirdly, I love the covers on the Belgariad series I have.

I'm tearing through them quite rapidly. The Belgariad is nowhere near as heavy as I recall - it's a gentle, easy read. Yes, the world-building is a lot more flimsy than Middle-Earth, but that's fine. I'm really enjoying them.

I suspect Thomas Covenant may be next. But you never know. One day I may actually tackle one of Martin's chihuahua killers.