May 31, 2024

What I’m up to - May 2024

It’s cover time!

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Ending the month on a high.

New work and submissions

As of today, it’s 104 days until my debut novel, A Reluctant Spy, comes out. Ahhh! And we now have a cover, which we just revealed on social media!

The cover of A Reluctant SpyThe cover of A Reluctant Spy

I’m so chuffed with this design - I was preparing for a shadowy figure in front of a landmark’ cover, which is a tried-and-tested approach to communicating the basics of a spy novel. But I love the route Headline chose here, getting across the central themes of identity and impersonation in a really bold and striking design. I really hope readers are as enamoured with it as I am.

Publishing a debut novel is a series of things that you really, really hope will go right, so it’s a massive relief and a delight when something is even better than you hoped for. And the cover is so, so important for any book, but arguably the most important thing for a debut where you can’t bank on any sort of name recognition. It has to make people want to reach out and pick up the book, or click through from a list of other books online. And it has to do that in fractions of a second. Thank you to Headline for putting such thought into this approach, and Andrew Davis for the design itself.

You can pre-order A Reluctant Spy’ here, add it to your Goodreads TBR and (very soon!) get a preview copy on Netgalley if you are a reviewer, Youtuber or podcaster. I’m also available for interviews, panel shows and literally anything else - I’m very keen to talk about this book.

Writing and editing

It’s a good thing I had my cover reveal at the end of the month to cheer me up a bit, because when it comes to getting the writing done, this month was a bit of a bust. The Exciting Thing I Can’t Talk About concluded (excitingly!) in early May, but fairly messed up my writing rhythm in the first third of the month. Then in the middle third of the month I got covid (ugh) which knocked me out for the better part of a week and a half. I picked up pace again in the latter half of the month, but I’m probably two or three weeks behind the plan I had for editing PROJECT SHARD. I’d hoped and planned to have it done by the end of this month, but it looks like it will be more like mid-June. Still, I’m nearly there. Overall, I worked on writing for about 19.5 hours this month, producing about 4,000 new words and cutting an aggregate 600.

Thing is, months like this happen. There is no such thing as a normal’ month (this goes for budgeting, chores and fitness routines as well, FYI). What matters is not how good any one month is, but how many months, stacked up in a row, that you do something. And this month, even though it felt like crawling over sharp rocks a lot of the time, I made a little progress on most days and gave myself grace on the days when I couldn’t. And the end result was about an even dozen scenes edited. A few years ago I’d have stopped dead with such a series of disruptions to my routine, then probably fallen off the horse entirely for three or four months. Now, I try to roll with the punches. I always prioritise getting back on the notional writing horse, even if some days it feels like a Shetland pony.

Publishing and community

This month I got my final page proofs and contract for the Nova Scotia 2 anthology, coming from Luna Press Publishing in August as part of Glasgow Worldcon. My story New Town’ is featured alongside some really big hitters of the Scottish SF scene, as well as a bunch of newer voices like mine. It’s a real privilege to be included and I can’t wait to read the other stories. This is an original piece for this anthology and my first ever anthology publication.

I also posted a blog earlier this month about the idea of working on a body of work - it really struck a chord and it was great to hear from so many people who told me it had really helped them reframe the struggles they were having with getting going, keeping going and staying focused in the maelstrom of the publishing industry. If you haven’t read it, maybe it’ll do something for you too.

The other big thing this month is Cymera, which starts tonight! I’ll be there all day on Saturday and I’m running a workshop with Nick Binge on finding, forming and and running critique groups and writing communities. Can’t wait!


I have continued to be on the beta read train this month. I finished The Salt Oracle by Lorraine Wilson and it was superb. Spooky, beautifully written and trenchantly observed. Fantastic stuff.

Next up is Murder At The Hotel Orient by Alessandra Ranelli, which I’m really enjoying. It’s an abrupt tone shift (swapping a spooky floating town in the Baltic for a velvet-curtained boudoir hotel in Vienna) and a very different writing style. But it’s a really accomplished, stylish murder mystery with instantly-memorable characters and I’m having a whale of a time reading it.

After that I’ll be reading Flesh and Blood by Nick Scaramanga (not a real name but I kinda wish it was) which is a cracking crime novel I’ve already read in first draft, but which I’m looking forward to reading in a polished beta draft.

And after that I’m going to pull the shutters down on beta reads for a few months, because I’ve got, uh, a lot on in the the latter half of the year and I’d quite like to read some actual published fiction.


I’ve been experimenting a bit on the blog this month, with a new category I’ve called daynotes. It’s not daily blogging, because I have neither the consistency nor the inclination to try and stick to that. A lot of bloggers I follow do lots of short posts alongside their longer ones and I’ve definitely noticed a correlation - a lot of short posts is an excellent way to create an ongoing record and useful snapshot of a writing life. It’s very easy to let a month or two go by and to forget about the progress you’ve made, the people you’ve met and the words you’ve written. But getting into a habit of regularly making a quick note of what’s going on - well, I really like it. And it feels good to experiment with the form of blogging.

In other non-internet activities, I went to a Star Wars themed wedding at the start of the month. One of my oldest friends was getting married to a fellow sci-fi nerd and the wedding featured stormtroopers, Jedis, a Star Wars pub quiz and a lot of very recognisable tunes. An absolute hoot of a day and a wonderful celebration of two people who are very well suited to each other.

Me and Ross the StormtrooperMe and Ross the Stormtrooper


My plan was to launch into something new in June, but that will be delayed by at least a couple of weeks, with PROJECT SHARD inching towards the finish line and a likelihood that I will have some outlines to write. But hopefully in the second half of the month, I’ll be working on entirely new fiction for the first time since last September. What will I be working on? Absolutely no idea, though I have several candidates in mind.

June is a quiet one on the writing community front (after Cymera of course), though I will be heading through to Glasgow for Genoveva Dimova’s Scottish launch event for her debut Foul Days’ - really looking forward to that. And somewhere in the month I suspect we’ll have an ESFF meetup.


Sharpen your thinking, let’s get linking

Well, wasn’t that exciting? A good reminder that it is very easy to think nothing’s happened in a given month apart from all the annoyances and feeling like crap for a fortnight, but then when you write it all down it turns out, on balance? Pretty good month.

Summer seems to have been somewhat postponed round our way, with constant rain and grey skies. But the garden and the woods don’t care - they’ll take the water from the sky as readily as the sun. And both things help them thrive, even if the balance tips one way or the other from time to time.

Whether it’s literally or metaphorically raining in your life the way it did in mine this month, I hope you are still pushing upwards towards the light. And if that feels too much, rest a while. Growth only happens when you’re resting, after all. In the meantime, as ever, keep reading, keep writing and keep moving.

If you have a question, suggestion or something else you’d like me to write about, please get in touch over on Bluesky, Instagram or Twitter, or send me a message on my contact form.

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Daynote - Fri 31st May 2024 Wow, the month has gone quick. And it’s going to be a belter of a last day. Later today, I will hopefully be revealing the cover of my debut novel,
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Daynote - Mon 3rd Jun 2024 Well, that was a pretty great weekend, after a pretty great Friday afternoon. As you can see from the image above, we did the cover reveal for my

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