Writing about family, and some new publications

Two related pitfalls of being a writer:

  • people think your books are about you

  • people think your books are about them.

Complex questions with no right or wrong answers but all in all a subject to be handled delicately, I think we all would agree. Well most of us would.

And then there’s Cousin Jim.

I have Google Alerts set up for some members of my extended family* and sometimes I get alerts seemingly randomly. Half the time they’re about other people entirely. But earlier this year it pinged with an entry on my now-deceased Great Uncle.

And I looked further. And I found a video.

The video was the promotion for a book.

I signed up for a 30 day Scribd trial and read the book. The book was about my family.

And by my family, I don’t mean “wow that guy was clearly modeled on our mutual ancestor, I remember hearing the same story about how he evaded military service**”. I mean first and last names, years and locations of birth, and so on.

How cool, you may be thinking. Someone went to the trouble of researching your family history and putting it all together in one volume!


This was a fantasy novel.

Family members, with no attempts to disguise them, and true stories about their lives, as characters in a fantasy novel.

So I guess I don’t need to worry any more. Even if I do accidentally model a character too much on another person, I’ll never go as far as Cousin Jim.

(Also he made a promo video for the book that involved him launching a rocket propelled chair from Dorset to the Seychelles. That went about as well as one might expect.)

*the reason is a story for a whole other newsletter.

**if there’s one thing this side of the family has always done well, it’s evading military service.

I’ve had a sudden flurry of new publications, which is always nice!

One of my weirder stories, “The Wasp-Keeper’s Mother”, is live at Kaleidotrope. It’s my second publication there, and I really appreciate how willing they are to publish the strange things other publications may be wary of.

“Like Clocks Work” is a story of animatronic clocks and space travel. It’s in the NZ Special issue of Aurealis Magazine.

Lastly, I’m delighted that “Henrietta and the End of the Line”, first published at Trans Lunar Travelers Lounge, will be reprinted in Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 2. I’m in amazing company there and looking forward to the launch at ConZealand. More on that shortly when I finalise my schedule.

Look. At. This. Damn. Artwork. Laya Rose is one of my favourite SFF artists (if she gets to 30 without winning a major award I will be SHOCKED) but even by her standards this is stunning.

(Not sure how to alt text on here, still getting used to Substack, so I will just say this is a gorgeous picture in orange tones of a woman’s face with swirling long hair against a starry background. It doesn’t do it justice but that’s my best attempt.)

Wishing you all well in this strange year (I hear some kids hexed the moon),