20th October

I’ve been here before.

That’s the title of today’s post, and a chunk of it will be about cycling. First, a primer of the situation at present. Team Sky are a professional cycling team. Formed a few years ago they were sold as the antithesis to the US Postal team which proven cheat Lance Armstrong cycled for. They would take the excellence of incremental enhancements which saw Team GB’s cycling team sweep all before them at an Olympic level, and add to it an avoidance of improprietous drug usage.

WOW! They were effective. Choosing riders for races, sacrificing well known names for the overall progress of the team. And they won the Tour de France. More than once. Awesome.

Then, because of the ban on a majority of Russian athletes being allowed to compete at the Rio Olympic games, a group of hackers set about looking for drug impropriety in other nations. To be fair, most of the releases have been nothing outstanding. But they did find details of the use of TUE’s by Team Sky riders, including Sir (now) Bradly Wiggins in 2001, 20012 (his Tour de France & Olympic time trial winning year) and, 2013. And today there is a story about a Team GB cycling flying an unidentified medical package from Britain to France. Begging the question of what medicine could not be obtained in France?

What’s a TUE? A Therapeutic Usage Exemption. It allows for a specified us of otherwise embargoed medication. And I want to be very clear here, we are talking about medication. this is not the days of Tommy Simpson where amphetamines, or la bomba, were in common usage. TUE’s are designed to allow an athlete to compete on a level playing field that would otherwise be impossible due to an underlying medical condition. Sir Bradley’s condition? Asthma. I have asthma (because I’m a fat chuffer), many people have asthma. Not many of us are Olympic gold, tour de France winning knights of the realm.

And that’s why today’s post is called ‘I’ve been here before’. Because I have. I was here when Lance Armstrong was accused of being dirty, and he stood and called out his accusers, sued his accusers, and was vindicated in court. Then he admitted to being the cheat he was accused of. Suddenly all those people who had been reviled by him and his defenders, who had been driven to the brink of ruin by him, who had been defrauded by him, were proven to be right, truthful, and honorable. I remember the evening Lance tweeted a picture of himself with his framed even Tour de France maillot jaune and a tag of ‘Just chilling’. The was after the USDA had produced their report detailing his cheating. I’d read the report, I was already convinced of his guilt (I didn’t need to see him admit it to Oprah) and was sickened by his blatantcy.

Now I’m seeing similar denials and prevarications. I’m parsing the words of other cyclists and hearing ‘yeh, I thought it was dodgy as hell’. It’s horrible.

If it’s true he should be stripped of all his awards and prizes. Team Sky are already shedding senior staff, they should be disbanded (which is gutting).

Going forward, all cyclist need to have an open blood passport (as should all professional athletes) and any TUE should be open. The current system requires, I believe, three separate doctors to sign off on its usage. That is robust, the only thing missing is transparency. Any request should be linked with the blood passport and extra blood testing for those using a TUE must be part of the process.

It’s the only way cycling (actually, road racing) can be revived and given credibility.

And that’s the end of part one, the cycling bit.

Next, I write you know!

And I’ve been here before. Or there, that is. Earlier this month I wrote about looking at my stock of written and part-written work, and then making a decision on how to move forward. I did this. I was surprised by what came forward.

Most of what I write is SF, to some extent. But I also have another passion project. Writing a story unique to each US state, along with a few stories about other areas unique to the US. I’ve spoken about getting the first volume out before, and not done it. But now it’s moving forward. My first 11 stories, about 37,000 words, are nearly ready. What do I mean by ready? Each story is as I want it to be. now I’m combing through for irritating typos, formatting for publication, ensuring that curly quotes are used throughout (instead of a mix of straight and curly quotes as was there at the start). I’ve got a couple of people signed on for beta reading, but would love some more.

Let me know.

Lastly on the theme of ‘I’ve been here before’ there was a problem blew up in the SF community last weekend. A well known writer was revealed as a manipulating, creepy, bastard. It keeps happening, not just in SF, but more than I want to see in a field I love and am involved in.

Can I ask a favor? Could men is SF stop being creepy bastards? It really isn’t all, or even a majority, but it’s enough to make things horrible. I really don’t care if you have strict views on what a person may or may not do, just don’t try to impose them on someone else. I don’t care if your writing is mono-colored, just stop demanding non-white people have no place in our non-real fiction writing field. I don’t care if you are a creep who believes women are beneath you, and that people are only useful if they can advance your career, just ,please, sod off and stop being a bastard round here.

I don’t want to be here again.






10th October

Not much to report.

My Chronic Fatigue has been bad this week. Holding a coherent thought in place has been a struggle.

One thing I have realized is how many unfinished projects I have. This need addressed, so I’m trying to do that. Sort the wheat from the chaff, the stories that do have solid underpinning from these that are just a collection of words arranged into some pretty sentences.

The intention is to produce a list, and then work through that in a methodical way.

October 3rd

Last year I started a short story with a working title of Epecuén. The name is that of a town in Argentina which was flooded out of existence in the mid-eighties. In my head the story is a tale of magical-realism, the town is sacrificed to save the nation. The details of this were hazy, but it felt like a good hook to work with. After about four and a half thousand words I was running in to walls and couldn’t find a way through, under, or over. I set it aside.

At the weekend I re-opened the file and read through it. I love the writing. It is sweet, and emotional, at least I think so. I have aspergers, emotion isn’t an easy reach for me and I’ve been fighting with adding it in for a couple of years now. Reading back Epecuén was a valediction of the work I’ve been doing. And I realized why the story was blocked for me. What I have written – about one-third of the final tale I reckon – is actually a sweet coming of age story. No magic anywhere in sight.

Now I have a problem. Do I continue with it as is, which is very much not my œuvre, or go back to the initial idea. I really can’t figure it out yet.

And as I’m not writing enough at the moment, I’m not rushing it it.

That’s not saying I’m not writing, or editing, or submitting. I am. This week I submitted a new story to one of my top target markets. The final edit made me really happy. I go to places that are uncomfortable in both subject and execution, and I’m happy with the way it has come out. I’ll see what comes with the submission.

Now, I need some help.

I have another story I love. It’s about an elf, and a vampire, and a murder. It’s set in snowy Nebraska, and there’s not a human in the world. Think Jessica Fletcher, as an elf, solves her first small town mystery. But can I get anyone to sniff at it? No. Where do I send it?

I’ll leave that here. It’s early October. I hope to write again in a few days.


27th September

Time for the monthly update.

I need to change the monthly update.

Really, it needs to be more frequent, but I’m not sure it’ll happen.

I had a great holiday this month, 2 weeks right next to the beach, swimming in the sea every day, shooting the breeze with family and friends, reading, & writing. Now I’m having a clear-out at home, and putting a bunch of stuff on eBay & Gumtree & the like.

On the writing front I had a disaster yesterday. My son has a 2 hour class twice a week about 20 miles away. Just far enough to justify staying and waiting  instead of driving back and forth. On Thursday I found a terrific coffee shop and spent two hour writing. It was some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever written, lyrical, soulful, honest. I worked on it some more over the weekend and had about 2k words.

I didn’t save it.

Not sure how, I thought Scrivener kept the last item for you. But I’m not blaming Scrivener, it’s my bad.

It threw me somewhat when I sat to write in the same coffee shop yesterday.


However, I wrote. The story is back up to the same place plot wise, but 900 words shorter. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s all the really soul revealing stuff that’s gone. Some of it I just don’t remember, other parts I don’t see how they belonged in the story. I’ll need to find somewhere else for them to go.

On the upside, the first part of the story has already received a ‘kill your darlings’ edit. Silver linings, silver linings.

On other writing related things, I joined a group for people who self publish, and it kind of worries me. Some writers are putting out an enormous amount of words at incredible speed. I’m wary of reading any of it because it’s either terrific, and my confidence can’t take that right now, or it’s poor, and I don’t want to read that.

I’m definitely going to SP some things, but I can’t see me doing it at the rate many in the group are. For a start my first drafts are always stinky slimy things, with massive amounts of typos and huge plot holes.

And with that, I’m away to take my multi-vitamins, beetroot tablets, & anti-depressants.


30th August

So, no regular updates during the month.

I’ve re-written and edited 16k worth of my novella. I now have a good handle on what else I need to write, and how.

I’ve also done a whole bunch of First Reading at F&SF. What a joy this gig is.

On Thursday (1st Sept) I’m away on holiday for 2 weeks. A long drive to the north of Scotland. I’m going to do a lot of swimming, a lot of sauna-ing, play some Firefly tabletop, and write a bunch.

So my guess is, I’ll update this about the same time next month.

29th July

or: Leaving this month’s post to the last minute, and other procrastinations.

A strange month in all. Let’s start with a highlight.

I got a new First Reader gig. With Fantasy & Science Fiction. Charles Finlay put a call out for applicants, I applied, my application was accepted. The team got to work just as the submission hiatus ended and have worked through nearly a thousand of the over eleven hundred submissions received. I’ve read some awesome stories. I look forward to some appearing in future issues.

One of the things I have noticed is more than a few stories where sirens of some sort are a key feature of the tale. I blame Rhonda Parrish. Her Magical Menageries collection Sirens is now out, and that means there are a few related tales that weren’t included still available. I myself wrote two stories for the anthology. One never got as far as submission, the other never made the cut. I hope to do better with the Equus call – though I need to get my finger out and finish writing the story.

Which means I need to be busy writing because over the next four months I am challenging myself to write a 40k word novella. To be fair, I have about 15k of early draft work done, but it will still be my biggest challenge. This is a story that has been with me for some time. Elevator pitch? The crew of a small salvage ship scraping a living on the fringes of the solar system find a derelict space yacht. It’s been drifting for two hundred years. What they  discover aboard sends them on a journey back to all the things left behind, and will change Earth/Mars relationship forever. How does that sound? I’ve never done one. The reason I’m undertaking this is to submit it to the Ab Terra call being edited by Yen Ooi.

In other, non-writing related news, I was at the hospital on Wednesday. I received official diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue. This wasn’t a surprise, but rather the culmination of a couple of years deterioration in my health. I had hoped my most recent malaise was a recurrence of glandular fever I suffered three or four years ago, but the blood work all came back as negative. The frustrating thing is on Wednesday I really needed to be sat at home with my foot up, as I couldn’t I have now strained ligaments. The constant pain is sapping. Imagine bad toothache, in your foot, for three days. Of course, as the family carer I’ve had to do more than I should, thought today and tomorrow should be days I can rest. If I’m sensible I’ll do some writing, or editing. It’s all highly annoying as I’ve just purchased a bike (2nd hand) to try and rebuild some strength, and have been swimming at the local beach (Cawsand).

Next month I hope to move back to weekly updates to help keep track of my novella progress.


16th June

Why have I lapsed into monthly posts?

Because I feel I’m just repeating myself.

Writing’s hard; I’m getting better; repeat.

And I am getting better, as several acceptance in 2016 attest. But there’s still more to learn.

I am an incremental learner. Each advance builds on the last, and I find it impossible to go back and retro-fit stories which is a shame, it means there are trunked tales that are solid in conception, but poor in execution.

To aid advancement I’m always trying to learn. Currently I’m taking Cat Rambo‘s Advanced Workshop. I did the initial class about 18-months ago and found it hugely beneficial. Something I forgot, before signing up for this one, was the effect of time zones. I’m not sure what time the class is for Cat, but for me it’s 0100-0300h. The net effect is ensuring, as the only male in this class, that I don’t take up too much space. I’m so tired by the time it starts I require 3-4 times as normal to think about what has been said, and then extra time to formulate a response (this last bit is irony – I work really hard on not being a ‘Me Man, Listen’ type of person, sometimes I even achieve it).

I really enjoy the way Cat takes a class. There is a freeness to it which allows for discussions to move into areas that may have been unanticipated. Her anecdotes and name dropping are light and purposeful. When discussing class submitted stories Cat always looks to be positive and upbuilding in her comments, but she does not shy away from pointing out weaknesses and areas of concern.

I definitely recommend considering one of Cat’s classes and, if being awake in the middle of the night is really not your thing, then have a look at her on-demand offerings.

One of the recurring themes in writing, or more accurately in becoming a published writer, is persistence. You read, and are told of, writers who submitted and submitted and submitted, facing rejection after rejection. This is a truism.To rack up the rejects that allow  for an acceptance I have been running on a program of averaging one submission per week, and always having at least ten stories out for submission. This has been a useful tool to ensure I don’t hide away from submitting work based on rejections (or critiques – more on that below). Currently I am on my lower limit of ten stories out, and a few of those are very near the point where they’ll drop off one way or another. So I must put a couple out to make sure I have a cushion.

On the matter of critiques. Over the past few months I’ve had a few from people who have read stories and then made suggestions which, I can only assume, are based on how they would tackle the story, instead of considering the story before them. One went so far as to posit that it would be better to delve into who a secondary character didn’t want to return to his hometown after war had ended. That I dealt with it in two lines (not wanting the stultifying family life, or a return to the seminary), that this was a secondary character, and that this was a short adventure story seemed to have bypassed the reader. I was most frustrated, and it took effort not to respond (remember, no matter how poor the crit a sincere ‘Thanks for your time and effort’ is the standard response. Maybe different if you pay for it, and feel it misses the point, but otherwise just smile and wave).

This has made me think about my critiquing methods. I’m an editor by crit nature (because it’s easy to see how to make other peoples work better). I’ll make suggestions on lines, paragraphs, and ideas. What I need to ensure is that I provide reasons for my suggestions, and that they do not fundamentally alter the story under consideration.

Thus ends this month’s maundering.



May 15th

I’ve written a big chunk of words this month. I like that.

I’ve had feedback on several stories over the past month. That’s good. I’ve not enjoyed it.

Writing is solitary, it is a matter of ego. Mine is suffering at the moment.

I can’t get the mechanics correct. It’s a problem of converting an idea into a story that drags people along.

Ho Hum

Time to level up.

Oh, and my glandular fever is playing merry hell, so I feel physically crap, and mentally everything is foggy.

19th March

I can’t have a high, without seeking the low.

There’s a strong streak of self-destruction that runs through me – it’s a parental influence and I’m well aware of its source – whereby I cannot experience success, no matter how minor, without immediately feeling a deep rooted sense of failure.

So, I have my first pro-acceptance, and immediately I’m looking at my other work and thinking, ‘Yeh, but that’s all crap, isn’t it. I should just give up. No one wants this derivative, single-dimension, turgid, typo-filled dreck. Grief! I can’t have a well executed original idea if I try!’

On top of this my glandular fever is spiking, so holding onto a single idea and manipulating it is a struggle (as is staying awake all day).

That all sounds kind of ‘Woe is me!’ And I suppose, to a certain extent, it is. But it is also writing honestly, laying out an inner part of myself that I don’t like people to see because it’s part of me I don’t like admitting to.

Writing is easy. All you do is sit at the typewriter (or keyboard), open your wrists, and bleed onto the page. Yeh. I don’t do that. Writing is a further exercise in not being me, in exploring realities other than my own. Is that why it’s a struggle? Or is it all the typos? The meandering sentences? Or how about the jejune ideas?

But I still want to write. Oh, a writer NEEEDS to write! Right? Meh. I don’t need to do anything, except breathe. But there are things I want to do to a greater or lesser degree. I want to write to a greater degree. I want to not suck at writing. I want to…


Today is low.

My ideas are weak. The execution is poor. My grasp of basic English shows me up.

This being the case I’m grappling with a blank page, and writing. Writing, with words, and words. The best words (I have all the best words).

Because, while I have a self-destructive streak, I also have a very, very strong ‘Ain’t no-one tells me what is what.’ Especially where that no-one is me.