Posted by: trisigmatic | July 14, 2018

subs update

Because all the other writers are doing it, here are my submission stats for the first half of 2018:

1 poem sub pending from 2017 (one prior rejection in 2017)
1 poem acceptance (pro rate, after 2 rejections in 2017)

2 short story subs rejected: one has been shelved, and the other is being revised prior to sending it out again
1 short story acceptance (SFWA rates, following 3 rejections in 2017 and 3 rejections in 2018)

1 reprint short story acceptance
1 reprint acceptance following two 2018 rejections.
1 reprint short story sub pending from 2017
1 reprint 2018 submission still pending response

What I’m really, really bad at is actually finishing my WIPs*. There are only two new stories in this batch, and I’ve decided that one of them is fundamentally broken. So, my plan for the summer is to fix that. I’m going to get that short story polished up and sent back out this weekend, and finally get around to revising another flash piece I wrote last year, which will work SO much better at twice the length or more. The alien horticultural show story and the chavvy-teen magical cynicism stories are also in my bucket list for July for getting out of draft and into good-to-go.  Over August, I want to get some longer short stories up to complete first draft – Evil Unicorns, Publish or Perish, and Crazy-Awesome Space Opera – along with my near-future homage to Guess How Much I Love You?, which will hopefully be short and quick.

* To which I say: day job, kids, awesome fun doing stuff with Cast of Wonders, Assistant Beaver Scout Leadering, Minecraft, and flopping exhausted on the sofa to watch telly with Jeremy. Plus bonus rampaging, creativity-sucking depression!  There’s no right way to write.


Posted by: trisigmatic | July 13, 2018

New story: Congratulations on your recent purchase!

I have a new story out! You can read it over at Terraform.


Posted by: trisigmatic | July 12, 2018

When it comes

When it comes,
we will scatter your ashes
in the blue-green depths
of a hospital
seventy miles inshore,
where the gull-voiced silence
of wheels and tears,
formaldehyde, nitrogen and glass,
bear insufficient likeness to the sea.

And the sea, unforgetting
of all the souls you lost and grieved,
must break, and wait,
and somehow do
without you.


[written 6th July 2015]

Posted by: trisigmatic | July 12, 2018

Close your eyes and you might believe

The underlying currents of my dreams
flow swift and treacherously fast this night:
a flood-borne force demanding I believe
the whispers of the moonlight in my eyes,
the strangeness of the forest in the sky,
the altered landscape of my sleeping life.

I see the order of my waking life
re-wrought and woven, twisted into dreams.
The burning fires blazing in the sky
scream feathered names into the violet night;
half hidden in the trees above, the eyes
of stone are opened, and believe

the truth of what they see. They see, believe,
and mark me with the shadows of my life.
No easy sleight of step beneath those eyes
will free me, shadow hounded, through these dreams.
The ground is fluid; forests fill the night,
their wind-wracked branches dancing in the sky.

I feel the pull, the tides of sap and sky,
as nature’s laws run counter to belief.
The hidden path is mine to walk this night:
the right to bring the flaming stars to life,
to rise, to soar, to wake them from their dreams
and weave a mask of light behind my eyes.

And with the starlight blazing in my eyes
I sing the burning birds across the sky
and back into the silence of their dreams
in spite of what the stone-eyed ones believe.
And though they chase me still, and seek my life,
there is for me a refuge in the night.

The drifting trees pass silent through the night.
The rising mist conceals me from their eyes.
The waves pulse with the heartbeat of my life,
now echoed by the rippling of the sky.
I have no thoughts through which I may believe
impossibilities once lived as dreams.

But as night fails and fractures from the sky
I close my eyes and know I must believe:
my life remains beholden to my dreams.

[written 3rd January 2014]

Posted by: trisigmatic | September 7, 2017

Getting through the slushpile

So, you’ve submitted your story! Congratulations – you’re already 2000% more awesome than the average writer. It takes tenacity and guts to complete those damn things at times, and you’ve got the confidence not to self-reject. That’s worth a lot.  And if you haven’t submitted something yet, and want to someday… please read on, and please also send us your stories.  We genuinely want to read them!

So. The thing is, most stories get sent back with a heartbreaking ‘thanks-but-no-thanks’ response. But I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of rejection here, because most of the time the reasons are either way too specific, or bleedingly obvious, or just one of those utterly random things that no-one can do anything about. What I’m here for right now is to tell you what I do look for.

This is where the hard work starts.

First and foremost: story. It needs to engage me as a reader. It needs to hold my attention. It needs to be a complete story, even for a flash piece of 500 words. “Insufficient story” is a shorthand phrase I use a lot.  Is it more than a single, central conceit? Is it more than a punchline? Does it go somewhere, drive some change, make me go ‘wow’? Don’t, for the love of misplaced apostrophes, write something that leaves me with an apathetic sense of ‘meh’. Make it memorable! (Just don’t send a YA market your Nazi Necrophilia. Yes, that one was memorable. No, that’s not something you want to be remembered for.)

Clarity. This is another aspect of the prose that matters to me. I want the story to know what it is. That doesn’t mean it should be obvious, because obvious is dull. And it doesn’t mean it can’t be straightforward, because there’s beauty in those Japanese stone gardens and that taut Scandinavian home decor, and whatever the prose equivalent of those things is, I find it beautiful too. It also doesn’t rule out subtlety either (oh god I love subtlety in prose), or complexity – but these things should work with the story, to heighten the immersion and the mood and all the other ineffable things the story is trying to achieve. But chaotically complex or unerringly smooth, done consciously or not, we can tell when the writer has done it with skill.  It’s the sweet spot that makes us take a deep breath in, and exhale ‘oh, wow!’

Characters. Is the story theirs? Could it exist without them? Do I care about them? Am I invested in their fates? Answer yes to all these things, and you’re onto a winner.

Characters are really an easy place for things to go awry. They’re one half of the life and voice of the story, and the interweaving of character, narrative and the author’s intent can often make things interesting. We very much respect that a character’s opinions are not necessarily those of the author, but they do carry the weight of the narrative on their shoulders, on the author’s behalf. Flawed characters are awesome. But flawed narrative decisions? That’s where we’ll call you out, and (if you’re lucky) ask for clarity. (If you’re unlucky, your rejection email may well be with you shortly.)

So how do you make me care? I have to believe in the character. I don’t necessarily have to like them, but I do want to empathise with them, and the choices that made them who they are.  Make them utter arses, or make them saints, but make their lives theirs. They’re characters, not cardboard cut-outs.

To a lesser extent, all of this should also be true of your side characters. I don’t want to see the dull minutiae of their lives, but I want them to occupy their own space in your world, and not vanish the instant Hero Protagonist walks off set. I don’t want to see any particular character type any more than others – and there’s no mythical filter that precludes stories without female characters – but lazy tropes and cliches will put me off fast, as will the unexcused absence of a diverse cast. If your story only includes female characters as set dressing, or if their sole purpose is to be a fridged love-interest, or if your story propagates some other weird, monolithic view of women (or any other under-represented group) as interchangeable Smurfettes… then the problem is not that I have a filter that weeds out stories without women. The problem is that your worldbuilding is irretrievably fucked.

I guess that’s as good a segue onto worldbuilding as any? If you know me at all, you’ll know I have a thing for worldbuilding. If you know me a bit better, you’ll also know I love randomness and whimsy. You build your worlds how you want to, and I’ll cheer you on! All I ask… and this is really a very small thing… is that you keep it consistent to whatever rules you’re working with. Is your world presented as the real world with minor knobs and twiddles of the fantastic added? Then that’s what I expect to see. Are you messing with the rules of physics? Then kill that science, but don’t move the goalposts midway (and for heaven’s sake, don’t make a full moon rise due east at midnight or anything like that). Are you going full-out GRRM-style magic-has-no-rules? Great! Just don’t write crucial plot points on how your magic system works, or on generally-accepted-in-the-real world reality. I love the full range of weirdness and logic and randomosity out there… but if you hang your plot on broken science or inconsistent magic or shoddy rules that would be far better handwaved away? Yep, it’s Big Red Button time.

Prose style. Honestly? Pretty much anything goes. We’ve taken stories that were in dire need of a good line edit, and we’ve rejected some beautifully lyrical stuff. (And vice versa, of course.) We’re not a market that looks for some elusive literary apex, and we’re just fine with simple, workmanlike prose. The more fluid it is, the better (of course!) but what we’re really looking for is prose that feels invisible, prose that adds to the mood and propels the story to wherever it’s going. There are no rules here but one. It needs to tell the story.

One story. Well told.

That’s the bottom line.


Posted by: trisigmatic | July 26, 2017

the ghost with eyes of flesh

the ghost with eyes of flesh says nothing as she enters the room


her mouth is a neutral smile

muscles shifting appropriately with the contours of the conversation


tea is brewed

cupped between warm hands

sipped through stillness and slowly drained


she stares into the middle distance.


she listens the same way


everything is heard

nothing meaningfully comprehended


the ghost with eyes of flesh does not need to ponder her other senses


high above gravity’s web

dissociated fingers unpick the seams of thought

searching for a deeper silence still


somewhere it might be cold enough to


Posted by: trisigmatic | April 26, 2017

April is the month

April is the month
when you expect the unexpected
when showers fall haphazard through
the fissures in normality

April is the month
when the trees are thick with blossom
when the hedgehogs wake from torpor
and feast on sluggish piskies

April is the month
when you know to carry sunblock
a sturdy sword and buckler
warm gloves and sprite-repellent

April is the month
when the dragonbane’s in season
beside the meadow primose
so much cheaper than from Tesco’s.

April is the month
when you don’t make hard predictions
when you reel off words of weather-lore
as talismans to chaos



Posted by: trisigmatic | April 22, 2017

One week, two stories

Well, this HAS been a busy week – I had two flash stories published!  If you fancy a read, you can find Snails (a formative experience for a young child) at The Flash Fiction Press, and The Morning After (you CAN consume too much celebrity gossip…) at 101 words.

Interestingly, I’ve also realised that there’s a big difference between posting fanfic and posting actual stories when it comes to how the writer engages with the reader.  At AO3 and the Pit of Voles, I’m used to a community environment. I’m open to concrit and discussion, and enjoy engaging with other fans. Stories are written to be shared, and the stories themselves are part of the conversation. I share my interpretation of the world and the characters, and sometimes it’s cracky and sometimes it’s canon-consistent… but it’s still not canon. I expect the reader to have their own interpretation, and so do they. We’re all exploring someone else’s world, and if it’s not on quite the same footing, it’s at least equivalent. But with original fic, it’s different. The presence of an author in a conversation can be hugely counterproductive – can the story belong to the reader in the same way as it did without the author chiming in willy-nilly?

So. Consider this a Note To Self. This is my space. That is not.


Posted by: trisigmatic | April 11, 2017


So, this is a poem I wrote in an attempt to come up with something SFnal on the theme of garbage. I started out with the idea of telomeres, and the repeating pattern of base pairs – TTAGGG // AATCCC – and how that might become corrupted over time. It seemed to fit with the idea of intertwining lives, with the pattern breaking down and things generally falling apart.

What I got was this nasty little piece on growing up weird, and failed friendships. No prizes for spotting the autobiographical elements.  I think it’s got bite, but it’s moved so far from the seed idea that that’s the weakest part of it. So here you go: a very broken poem, that I don’t want to touch again with a ten foot pole…




Oh. Hey.

Do I… know you?

Don’t you remember?  That summer. Up in the hills, in the valley we found? The gritstone quarry with the birches and oak, the heather and gorse, and the world below.  

The trees at gorse green grove, that was what we called it.
And after that cautious, clouded climb….

That was you?
God, the things I got up to back then.

Do you miss it?

Those days?

Those. Between seasons and schools-

-the top-40 singles and shithead games?

Lipstick samples and rolled-down socks-

-shared albums-

-and dreams. Sketches-

-of horses? Or in your case, flying unicorns wasn’t it?
What was it you called them again?

Sketches of horses and promises kept.
We climbed the trees at gorse green grove-

-and we practised kissing.
Just in case, I suppose.

We climbed the trees at gorse green grove-

-and threw acorns at stupid crows, didn’t we?

That was later.


And it was me. Or rather… you weren’t just throwing them at crows.
Don’t you remember us at all? That first summer we met?

You were a strange thing then.
So oddly obsessed.

So were-

You’re still strange now.
Weirder, maybe.

I remember the night-

-when you wanted to meet at midnight
to watch shooting stars? And we crept out?
Did we actually do that? It’s all a bit of a blur now.

We used to spend the whole weekend up there. Up in the trees at gorse green grove…

I honestly can’t believe we did that. You saddo.

Posted by: trisigmatic | November 9, 2016



I saw the spiral sweep

of planets born from dust

the snow-borne chill

of falling dreams

and rivers dried to rust

The grief, the pain, the shock, the fall

my child’s hand warm in mine

and footsteps, paired,

and hearts, and souls,

a robin’s song

a gentle word

unsilenced, still

and steadfast

while this winter grips our world.

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