TMoRP – Outro

Suddenly it’s December.

When I started my Month of Relentless Positivity, I didn’t quite expect to need it so much, but then this happened, and that happened. (That in particular was unexpectedly traumatic). Being forced to think about stuff I liked every day turned out to be an invaluable self-care tool.

I also didn’t expect to achieve my goal of blogging every day. Sure enough, I missed the mark, though not by as much as I feared. I almost made it to two days out of three, which was not bad on my schedule.

(I would have made it yesterday, but my kids’ school concert went over time by about an hour. After that, the oblivion of sleep held an irresistible allure.)

All in all not a bad experiment. I’ve had fun, I’ve met a couple of new people, and I’ve kept busy at the keyboard. Just getting into the chair and getting some words down has felt like an achievement.

On the down side, the blogging came at the expense of other writing jobs – everything from editing my novel to finishing a short story draft to working through some online training. All of those are now behind schedule, so from here on until the end of the year I will be focused on clearing the decks for 2017.

I always try to end my year with a look back at what I’ve accomplished and a look ahead to what comes next. In that spirit I will do at least one more blog post before the end of the year. (More, probably)

I expect to be travelling a lot next year, both with the family and alone for work. I’ve found I can be very productive when I’m away, as long as I already have a plan in place. It’s usually a good idea to have a story outline standing by for when I have four hours of unanticipated free time due to delayed flights.

Prime writing time. If there's coffee.

Prime writing time. If there’s coffee.

So December will be a time for knocking off a few commitments, brainstorming ideas, sketching out plans and generally trying to set myself up. My first job is finishing my long-delayed newsletter, which I’ll finish and send out this weekend. This issue contains the penultimate episode of my serial adventure story Orphan’s Moon, as well as a long essay on what inspired it and what I plan to do with it.

If you’ve enjoyed reading these Positivity posts or if the stories I posted earlier in the week have give you a taste for my fiction, sign up for the newsletter using the form below. Every four to six weeks I will send out a new edition with fiction, news, and the occasional surprise.

All right then. November’s done. It’s back to being a grizzled curmudgeon who complains about everything for me. Happy December!

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TMoRP – Free Fiction

I’m doing a bit of writerly housecleaning this evening.


At any given time, I try to have a dozen or so short stories in circulation, submitting to various magazines (mostly online) or for anthology calls. Some stories get accepted relatively quickly – which for me means that it takes less than ten submissions – but others go out and come back again and again.

Eventually it gets to the point where I’ve run out of places to submit them. Once I get down to the markets that pay a token five bucks or (rarely) a print copy of the magazine, I’m forced to consider the possibility that the time and effort is not equal to the reward. A couple of my stories have done the rounds and have yet to find a taker. It’s time to admit that they probably never will.

It could be that they’re bad stories. I don’t think they’re terrible, but I’m not always in the best position to judge. It could also be that they just aren’t what any editors are looking for, for whatever reason – length, subject matter, title.

One of them is certainly longer than most paying markets will tolerate. At over 7000 words, ‘The Feast of Horns at the House of Saint Mitus’ Eye’ was very difficult to find eligible markets for. Though I remain very fond of how it came out, the experience of submitting it unsuccessfully for two years convinced me that I needed to write much more compact stories.

Also that I needed to get much, much better at coming up with story titles.

The other one is ‘The Nature of Monkey’ and is recent, relatively brief and has an excellent title. As a runner-up in a short story competition, it was printed in the convention magazine at Conflux 12 in October this year. An excellent feather in my cap, and I couldn’t be happier.

But as a side effect that publication also expired its first-use rights, which means I can’t sell it again. Most paying markets purchase the right to be the first publisher of a story, and for exclusive use of the story for some agreed period (usually a year but it varies).

Publishers of short fiction are not interested in purchasing the rights to a previously published story, even if it was only in a magazine that about a hundred people read. Having exhausted most of the reprint-friendly markets in short order – mostly the audiobook/podcast ones – I think I’d rather just keep it close to home.

So in the spirit of Relentless Positivity, I am officially retiring them from the submission carousel and putting them out to pasture.

The pasture, in this case, is over on my Free Fiction page.

The Feast of Horns at the House of Saint Mitus’ Eye (7400 words)

The Nature of Monkey (4000 words)

I hope you enjoy them.

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TMoRP – Stock Images

For nearly all these Month of Relentless Positivity posts, I’ve been using stock photos used under a Creative Commons license, so today I just wanted to give a shout out to the source.



Pixabay is a hosting site for tens of thousands of high quality photographs, photo-manipulated images and illustrations, all catalogued and tagged for ease of searching. They are available for use under a Creative Commons CCO license, which means they can be used freely and without attribution to the artist for any purpose – even modification or in a commercial product.[1]

The artists who supply the photos can receive tips from grateful users but are not otherwise compensated for the use of their work. (I pay a small gratuity for most of the images I use here, although I admit I’m a bit inconsistent about it).

And the thing I want to point out is that some of these images are just breathtakingly beautiful. I mean, we all remember that fox from a couple of weeks back, right?

Or this cat

Or this cat

Like Pinterest (whose users have a much less rigid attitude towards the minutiae of copyright ownership), any search term can lead down a rabbit hole of spellbinding and captivating imagery. And also sometimes some Not Safe For Work stuff, *coughporncough* so maybe make sure you check out the Safe Search filter options.

Anyway, accidental “erotica” aside, for anyone wanting to dress up a blog or make their Facebook posts a little less samey, which still not making use of someone’s art without their permission, I can’t recommend Pixabay highly enough. Or check out this post on which conveniently lists all the sites I would otherwise have mentioned.

If you’re going professional with your blogging – and I cannot fathom the circumstances in which someone doing that would be reading this post – you could also check out paid subscription equivalents like Shutterstock or iStock. (Or any one of dozens of equivalents)

For the rest of us, the free stuff like this should be more than sufficient.




[1] But I am not an internet lawyer, so do your own due diligence on the limits of the license


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TMoRP – Having written

I’m a prize procrastinator.

I was talking to a writer buddy today about our respective story outputs this year – this is the kind of riveting conversation you get when writers meet each other [1] – and he took me to task for using the word “lazy” to describe myself.

He’s not wrong.

The problem is that admitting to being lazy feels easier than confronting the stark truth: I don’t get as much done as I feel like I can and should, because I resist starting. A lot.

When I say “resistance”, you might picture a certain yawning indolence. Possibly a cup of tea and a comfortable couch feature prominently in your mental image.

You wouldn’t be wrong, but you’d be closer to imagine a yowling tomcat objecting in a whirlwind of slashing claws and ruffled fur to his diarrhoea medicine.

The author on deadline

Perhaps I exaggerate. But not by much. [2]

Oh, it’s not that I get bored and distracted until I give up and go watch the television all evening. That’s common-or-garden procrastination. Anyone can do that!

I have a panoply of clever techniques to help me avoid work. I have side projects, like this month-long blog series that eats up most of my slender allocation of free writing time.

Or there’s that blog series about that TV show. Or that blog series about those old books. Or this self-motivation training course I’m working on. Or my journal. Or that short story I’ve been tinkering on for the last eighteen months. Or the next cool contest. Or that anthology open call I just heard out.

Or. Or. Or.

You get the idea.

The thing is, it’s dumb. Because I *like* writing. I enjoy the feeling of slapping words down in a clatter of keyboard thuds and watching meaning and understanding, however crude, emerge like a wizard’s conjuration. I love how ideas turn into characters, and characters turn into stories, sometimes without me even conscious of how it’s happening.

And more than that, I love having written.

I love looking back over a couple of pages of crab-written scrawls and thinking, “That’s a story that didn’t exist anywhere an hour ago” [3]. It really is a bit magical, the way you can just waggle your fingers around for a while and create something fascinating and compelling and cool.

(Or alternately a bunch of utter rubbish, but that’s where editing comes in)

I’m not lazy.

I just come slightly undone in that moment between sitting down at the keyboard and writing those first words.

The last words, though? I’m great at those. Once I’ve hit my stride and ploughed through a writing session, I glow all over. I’m on top of the world and I could fight giants. Immediately after having written is when I feel most alive.

Maybe I should start at the end and work backwards?

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

[1] This and snarking about other writers who don’t happen to be there at that moment. I mean, *I* don’t talk like this, but I presume everyone is doing it about me.
[2] I hardly ever bite my editors, for example. Except the ones trying to feed me diarrhoea medicine.
[3] My smug-writing-afterglow self obviously gives himself too much credit for producing a palatable first draft, of course, but his heart’s in the right place.
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TMoRP – Happy Doctor Who Day

Every year I mark the occasion of 23rd November with something Doctor Who-related.

The show began broadcasting on this date back in 1963. I’ve been marking the anniversary in one way or another almost as long as I can remember – certainly since my early teenage years. I’m not remotely kidding when I say that the date has more significance to me than any other cultural calendar event (though I do put a bit more effort into Christmas, because of the food involved!)

This year it will probably be a rewatch of ‘Heaven Sent‘ (aka that really good one from last year with Peter Capaldi talking to himself for an hour). And if I have time, I’ll probably throw in his anti-war rant from ‘The Zygon Inversion‘. [1]

“Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.”

It feels timely.


[1] Who am I kidding? I watched it three times just writing this blog post. [2]
[2] Ooh, and while you’re at it, perhaps you’re tired of Capaldi and would quite like to watch some John “The War Doctor” Hurt? Here he is doing the same speech at the Gallifrey One convention earlier this year:

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