[7RQ] Beta readers / Deep Wasteland / Lake District


THE TEMPUS PROJECT went off to my beta readers this week. I joked online that in some ways it’s more stressful than submitting to an editor, and I was only half-joking — for me, at least, what I send to beta readers is still very much unfinished, and several revision passes away from what will eventually be called the First Draft.

I’m an iterative writer — I like to get a quick version down, then tidy and polish it, then get feedback, then revise it based on that feedback, then tidy and polish it some more… and so on. The beta reading stage is that first round of feedback, where the manuscript is in no fit state to be shown to the public, but complete enough to be read by a small number of people whom I trust.

And beta reading is all about trust, on both sides. From the author’s perspective, I trust my readers will understand it’s not finished, that of course I know it has problems, and I value their opinions on how those problems can be solved. From the beta reader’s side, they trust I won’t waste their time; that I’ll listen to their feedback and take their criticism seriously, in good faith. After all, I asked for it.

This is why authors curate beta readers carefully, and mostly draw on other writers, because they understand the process. Sending out unfinished work leaves us vulnerable; first impressions make a lasting mark. It’s important to know that won’t be abused.

Acting on beta feedback, meanwhile, is a balancing act of weighted opinions and my own instincts. If two people give directly contradictory opinions — “I loved this part”, “I hated this part” — they kind of cancel each other out, and I’ll listen to my gut (cf THE EXPHORIA CODE with That Scene in the Syrian desert — it divided beta readers, and even my editor, but ultimately I firmly believed it was right for the story).

On the other hand, if several people all give the same note, or dislike the same scene, then I’ll take a close look at it to address those concerns. As I often say in games work, “Fight for your vision, but recognise when someone else’s idea is better.” That’s applicable in many situations.

Anyway! So here I am, anxiously awaiting notes and feedback, and quite frankly that anxiety isn’t helped by the shitshow that is the UK’s political circus right now. If I keel over from stress, blame those 650 numpties in Westminster. J’accuse.


“Tennis”, a short project I mentioned last time, is now done. It’s a non-fiction article for an unusual venue — kind of niche, but very big within that niche — that will make more sense when I can reveal it. Might put a few cats among several groups of pigeons, which is always fun.


Over at Atomic Junk Shop, veteran comics reviewer Greg Burgas wrote an extensive, in-depth look at WASTELAND for the “Comics You Should Own” series.

Well worth a look whether or not you’ve read WL itself, it’s probably the deepest dive anyone’s yet done into the series. Naturally, I neither confirm nor deny any of Greg’s speculation regarding my intentions, but he picks up on — and discusses at length — many themes I didn’t see discussed much while the series was being published. It’s about time.


Russia has spent several years literally building its own closed version of the internet, complete with a duplicate DNS system, and is now commencing tests to shut itself off from the global net. Ostensibly this is to test its integrity against cyber-attack, hardening the Russian net in case of disaster. The fact it would also give them an even greater instrument over what their citizens can access than China’s “great firewall” is merely a coincidence, I’m sure.


Next weekend is the Crime Writers’ Association annual conference, being held in Cumbria, England. The conference is members-only, but the CWA is putting on a number of public events in association with local libraries to coincide. So if you’re in or around the Lake District over the next week, you can see me and a host of other crime and thriller writers at places like:

Thurs Apr 11, 6.30pm: Workington Library
“Loners, partners, and character balance in crime fiction”

Linda Stratmann (the Frances Doughty mysteries), Mike Craven (the Avison Fluke series), and me
Fri Apr 12, 3.00pm: Windermere Library
“Blood, sweat, and research: drawing on real life to write crime”

Marsali Taylor (the Shetland sailing mysteries; no, the other ones), Paul Gitsham (the DCI Warren Jones books), and me
Sun Apr 14, 2pm: the Macdonald Old England Hotel
“Cupcakes and Crime”

This is a much bigger event, with a whole host of writers present, including Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Lovesey, Christine Poulson, Amy Myers, Aline Templeton… and me, of course 😉


What happens when you try to create a game show from scratch? Well, chaos reigns, for one thing. But it’s also a hell of a lot of fun, as I found out when I hosted the pilot of TL;DR, a new game of “hasty summaries and reckless connections.” Kelly Guimont, Dan Moren, Kathy Campbell, and Annette Wierstra were all kind/foolish enough to be my guinea pigs, and you can hear the results at: