This month I’m attempting my first NaNoWriMo. It’s 7 days in and I’ve written 11800 words so far.

Even at this early stage I can say it’s been the best boost to my writing.  I’ve previously been daunted by NaNoWriMo. It’s insane.  It’s unrealistic.  I have a day job.  I have a social life.

Then two weeks ago,  a fellow member of the Manchester Spec Fic Writing Group just said something that convinced me.  It’s not about making the perfect novel in a month.  It’s about writing writing writing and ignoring the inner editor for the month.  The discipline of sitting down and writing  1667 words every night.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I realised fantasy novels ended and there was no way for me to permanently live in them.  I wrote an unwieldy first novel between the ages of 16-21. Then I abandoned all that for short stories.

The funny thing is that except Edgar Allen Poe and Roald Dahl, I didn’t have a lot of experience with short stories.  They are a difficult and underappreciated fiction form in many ways to concisely provide a storyline, character and setting in about 4000 words. I’ve grown to really appreciate short stories as I’ve read more to improve my writing.  Odd gems and ideas that can be quickly absorbed over breakfast or on a bus ride.

But when was I going to wrote the novel?

I always had excuses.  I was doing a postgrad degree.  I was planning a wedding.  But really I was just afraid. I had an image of the novel as something sacred that would just magically come out in final draft form.

Nanowrimo has helped me get over that barrier. My husband reminds me every day of the goal I set and I drag myself over to the computer.  Even if I don’t finish,  this is the longest continuous piece of work I’ve written since that early and painfully bad first novel.

And that can only be a win.  I hope everyone who is attempting NaNoWriMo finds it as useful and successful as I have so far!

Spirit of Regret acceptance

My Vietnamese fantasy story “Spirit of Regret” has been accepted for publication in Insignia’s South-East Asian Fantasy Stories. I wrote it after living and working in Vietnam. In the cities, the young couples would sit in yoghurt shops and cafes reading manga and barely talking to each other and it inspired this story. There are also more motorbikes than people in Ho Chi Minh city. I found Vietnam to be a complex and gritty place that actually taught me more about other parts of Asia than I at first realised.

The anthology is due to be published in December/January but the editor is still looking for submissions if anyone has something suitable!

Winter Tales Contents page

Winter Tales’ very efficient editor Margret Helgadottir has been busy behind the scenes reading, shortlisting, sending out contracts and generally getting me very excited about the anthology which is due to published in spring 2016. Last week the folks over at Fox Spirit released the contents page which is as follows.


Mat Joiner: The frost sermon
Su Haddrell: The Bothy
Sharon Kernow: The Wolf Moon
Ruth Booth: The love of a season
Masimba Musodza: When the trees were enchanted
Fiona Clegg: Sunday’s Child
Tim Major: Winter in the Vivarium
Lizz-Ayn Shaarawi: Snow Angel
Amelia Gorman: Under your skin
B. Thomas: Among Wolves
Eliza Chan: Yukizuki
DJ Tyrer: Frose
G.H. Finn: Cold-Hearted
David Sarsfield: Voliday
Kelda Crich: Coldness Waits
K.N. McGrath: The Siege
Jonathan Ward: Spirit of the Season
James Bennett: The Red Lawns
Anne Michaud: Frost Fair
Jan Edwards: Shaman Red
Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Coming of The Cold
Verity Holloway: The Frost of Heaven

Of course as previously blogged about, I already knew I was in it but it’s just as exciting to find out which other writers are included. Quite a bit of Twitter stalking may have been done. :D Anyway it’s great to find out the huge range of other writers from those getting their first time publications (hooray!) to those with novels already out (jealous). In particular, a quirky blast from the past is DJ Tyrer who edits Monomyth magazine which featured my fourth wall destroying short story “Writing the Happily Ever After”(11.1)! Can’t wait to read more from the other contributors!

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(Photo from Sapporo Snow Festival, not affiliated with the anthology, but snowy all the same)

Winter Tales

I’m very chuffed to announce my short story “Yukizuki” has been accepted for publication in Fox Spirit‘s Winter Tales anthology, due for publication in early 2016.

“Yukizuki” was written after my two year sojourn in snowy Hokkaido where I tentatively learnt to snowboard and grew to love the 4-5 months of snow we had each year. That’s all the backstory you get for now.

As for recent work, well I’ve always been heavily influenced by my surroundings. In my computer I have grouped my work as Mad Women in the Attic (stories written around my undergrad degree that were heavily influenced by English literature academia) and Japanese folktales (stories written around my 3 years in Japan). Since meeting my Afroken and embracing my Chinese roots more, my characters have become more and more Asian . Lately, I’m guessing due to the influence of living in London then Manchester, the brilliant Manchester Speculative Fiction group, and all of the YA dystopia series’, I’ve started on some more urban fantasy/ near future dystopia stories. Whilst I’m not always sure of what I’m doing, and panic when I need to explain the science, I’m enjoying dropping tantalising hints of a difference and leaving it to the reader to fill in the blanks.


Ever since I started reading fantasy novels as a child, I, along with most other fans of the genre, have loved a blacksmith. The archetypical blacksmith’s son/ apprentice finds he has great powers and sword wielding skills in so many novels and films (Pirates of the Caribbean, How to Train your Dragon, Wheel of Time, Wizard of Earthsea). Along with wanting to be an elf, I was certain I could craft my own sword and that being a blacksmith was magic.

Well for our wedding anniversary, AfroKen and I went on a day workshop in Norfolk to make our own knives. It was in keeping with all of the other crafting we’ve done (e.g. making our own wedding rings) as well as living out our fantasy world dreams (e.g. survival weekend learning to start fires and snare rabbits). We had illusions of grandeur, of making a sword in a day, of being naturals. What actually happened was so much more interesting.

My vision of what we were doing was heating up some metal and hitting it with a hammer. That did happen. And it was so difficult to be fast and precise and strong all at the same time. After about 5 attempts, the blacksmith Nick offered to help me out and in one go, made a basic knife shape. Although I hate to admit weakness, I accepted straight away that his decades of experience were worth seeing.

But it doesn’t end at the hammer! To make one little bushcraft knife took us about 8 hours. We had to grind the edges down, sharpen the blade, temper the cutting edge, burn on the handle and then shape it, polish it up, make a leather sheath, and lots of other steps that makes me head spin. It gave me so much respect for the time and cost of handcrafted items.

What I loved even more were the stories. Nick was turning anything into a blade from old Landrover parts to century old ship pins. He made things from meteor and mammoth tusks. He had a backlog of quirky commissions to do and yet he seemed to savour the time telling his stories and teaching two rank amateurs on how to make a knife.

Of course in this day and age everything can be done quicker and cheaper but Nick, and the people who commissioned these items, wanted it for the history, the care and the beauty of a hand-forged item. He told us about making movie props, pieces for museums and when we stopped for lunch we could see his hand-craft in the cutlery, the door handles shaped like leaves and candlestick holders on the table. It was beautiful and the skills to make anything he needed from a chunk of ugly metal was astounding. I can entirely understand why blacksmiths were seen as magicians back in the day.

The sad thing is that it is a dying art. Knowledge and skills were passed down through generations and not in books or videos. I felt like I was being given a glimpse into an old world, another world where we didn’t just buy things from shops but used our hands to make it. And if the first attempt fails, we just keep trying. I know most of it is on youtube and Wikipedia these days, but hearing it from an experienced blacksmith was so much more satisfying. It was more in keeping with the oral tradition.

I’ve never felt closer to the fantasy books of my youth than listening to Nick’s stories about hunting with a bow and arrow, falconry and making his own set of tools in his apprenticeship.

A Summer Reverie

I was doing some writer admin today and looked through some of my old work. I have decided to share with you, a short story from 2008 called A Summer Reverie. This is one of my few non-genre pieces and written with Virginia Woolf and a little bit of James Joyce in mind. I haven’t written in this style since but I’m quite proud of how different it is to my other work. Perhaps it’s worth trying to write a genre piece as a stream of consciousness. Please let me know what you think!

A bit of craic

Just back from a lovely Easter trip to Northern Ireland and County Donegal. The Causeway Coast was inspirational, especially with the lovely weather we had. AfroKen and I did a bit of a Game of Thrones tour but to be honest it was really just an interesting way to stop off at some of the slightly less well-known scenic spots. Whilst I was really looking forward to the Giant’s Causeway, by the time we got to it, we had seen so much beautiful undiscovered landscape that the coach-loads of tourists did ruin the experience a little. We did attempt to play a game of Settlers of Catan on the rocks just because the shape was so similar.

I much preferred Ballintoy Harbour where we climbed around the rocks and watched the waves crashing and creating rainbows with spray over the rocks.

Some photos can be seen over in the photos page.