The Great Beta Reader Turns Enforcer


After a long spell of essay-writing and reading-for-study (which is still ongoing, until early June at least), there has been very little writing for fun.

Fortunately, I have a very hands-on assistant who we all know as the Great Beta Reader, i.e. I’ve mentioned her before. She’s a real person, not a voice, although in some circles she’s known as The Mouth.

Over a cup of tea and a ciggie (otherwise known as an informal meeting), and with both of us bored of my whining about my apparent lack of enthusiasm for anything anymore, it was decided that I needed a set of regular, enforceable goals.

Enter Goals.

The new goal is to write 500 words of fiction, whatever takes my fancy, and have it on the Great Beta Reader’s desk (virtual or physical desk, whichever’s most convenient) by 5pm on Friday or I have to pay her five pounds. Every week.

And that’s it.

For the past few weeks, it’s been working quite nicely. I’m excited about writing, and it’s so small, and manageable, and doable, that not even I can find an excuse not to do it.

Plus, it saves me five pounds.



New Stories and Sir Peter Ustinov

The Sea Children

I’m writing this after a long hiatus of not writing. I feel like I’m always saying I’ve not written anything for a very long time but… and then very little happens. I blame this phenomena on studying and a sudden, inexplicable lack of confidence over the past year and a half.


I’m writing this after a long hiatus, but, there have been movements, and I should celebrate them instead of focusing on the negatives.

Back in February, my short story ‘Automaton’ was accepted for the fourth issue Phantaxis Magazine February 2017of Phantaxis Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine (see a handy illustration nicked from the Phantaxis website to the right). I loved writing this story (lots of virtual window shopping for increasingly ridiculous products) and was inspired by Mac McClelland’s article over at In the piece, McClelland goes undercover and describes the back-breaking and thankless work for what she calls “Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc”. Wink wink.

Also this month, my contemporary short-story ‘The Sea Children’ found a home at The Saturday Evening Post for their Fiction Friday slot. This started life as a fisherman-themed competition entry for Writing Magazine and gradually evolved into a longer story after positive feedback from Granta and other publications. You can read it online here.

In other news, I finished up my latest uni module with a staggeringly bad exam. My answers were… lacking. Despite this, I’m glad to see the back of forced reading for a while; on my to-read-for-fun list this month is Expanse: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey and Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories. Like most people, I binge-watched The Expanse on Netflix and pinched The Great Beta Reader’s copy (she’s heavily into space operas now, and wants to be a Space Pilot; nothing else will do).

I’ve also set myself a seemingly impossible goal of writing a pilot script for this year’s Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award, starting now with a July 1st deadline *gulp*. I won’t lie, I’ve spent a lot of today staring out of the window, eating a Pot Noodle, inwardly freaking out. I’m telling you lot so I can be held accountable. Happily, there’s the flickering image of a potential opening scene in my mind, so things are in motion…

Onwards and upwards.


Empty Oaks Issue #1 Out Now

Empty Oaks Issue #1The inaugural issue of Empty Oaks is out now, helmed by my friend and colleague Ro McNulty. I was part of the behind-the-scenes madness and what a pleasure it was! It’s a non-profit e-zine with an eye to changing the world one story at a time, so grab your FREE copy from the website (PDF like a true indie) and get your read on folks.

In our very first brand spanking new issue (cover art is ‘Horizons’ by Tori Wyatt) we’ve got lined up:

The Play’s the Thing by Stephen Whitaker
Rustle-y by Rudy Koshar
The Wood of Suicides by David W Landrum
David’s Engines by Charles Bane, Jr.
Article: The Baleful Glare – on Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Ro McNulty
You Have the Body by Phoebe Reeves-Murray
Finroc macFinniel Silmairë By Warren Rochelle
Glass By Kira Messell
Fluctuations within the Project by Russ Bickerstaff
Two Poems; the Authoritarian’s Imaginary Workload and Sexless by Colin James