A thought for #NationalWritingDay

Writers – of fiction, I mean – occupy the territory between magician, court jester and shaman.

They take the things we cannot clearly see about ourselves and make mirrors so that we can look at those things, at least a little more clearly.

It’s paradoxical, isn’t it, that though we, as writers, set out with fabrication as a goal, we can end up revealing something pure and unadulterated? And yet a writer of non-fiction, someone who strives for precision and factual detail actually blurs reality simply by passing it through their own lens.

Great fiction imparts great truths with a subtlety and depth that non-fiction never can.

So, get on with your writing and seek the truth wrapped up in stories…


The Mahe Mailshot – RAIN


map of seychelles

In March 2003 My wife and I went to live on a small island in the Indian Ocean. We stayed there for a year of tropical delights and frustrations.

As a break from fiction – and to help maintain my sanity in the midst of a strange culture – I wrote a series of emails to folks at home…



—– Original Message —–
From: JD’L
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 3:46 PM
Subject: don’t worry, it rains here too…
Continue reading

“Do you see Post Apocalyptic fiction as a great way to explore Horror elements in a setting more associated with the Science Fiction branch of the Speculative Fiction tree?”

I was originally asked this by Rob Bedford and answered it on SFF World  in February, 2014…

I danced around this hulk of a question for ages trying to find its weak spot. It was like boxing a Decepticon.

After a couple of weeks, dodging and feinting without landing a single blow, I was tired, thirsty and needed a hug. There was no one around so, in desperation, I embraced the gargantuan, titanium-hulled battle-conundrum’s ankle. He turned out to be a real sweetie.

He said:

“You know, Joseph, this question just relates to genre and how you feel about it.”
“It does?”
“Sure. Relax and enjoy yourself. You don’t even have to answer it.”
“Not even a ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”
“Erm…just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ might not go down too well…”
“What should I say then?”
“Anything. Whatever you want.” He leaned down. “But make me look mean, OK? Ferocious. Know what I’m saying?” Continue reading

Photographing Fungi by Maura McHugh

I first struck up the practice of taking photographs regularly during the summer of 2006. I was just back from seven intense weeks in Seattle, USA, where I’d spent six of them at the Clarion West writers’ workshop, locked up in a sorority house with seventeen other writers, producing a short story a week as well as critiquing the work of my companions-in-arms.

Leaf umbrella

My initial reaction when I returned home was a numb inability to write, coupled with a desperate sadness at losing a supportive learning environment. I wasn’t surprised by either of these feelings, because it’s a common side-effect of attending Clarion West, and we’d been warned it might happen.

Purple pastille

I still felt the urge for a creative outlet, but for a time words would not come. So, I took up my camera and started taking photographs in earnest, and I also returned to drawing, something I’ve enjoyed since I was a child.

Working on this different set of creative muscles gave my writing muscle the chance to recover from exhaustion, and eventually I could exercise it again. Now, photography inspires my writing while simultaneously satisfying a different creative compulsion.

Watch where you point those

August in Ireland is when mushrooms begin to emerge (although it varies year from year depending on the weather conditions). I love macro photography, so I started focusing on these incredible life forms as photographic subjects.

Bringing a camera on my walks with my dog has added an extra dimension to my daily foray into the woods: I’m always searching for an image to frame.

When looking for mushrooms to photograph, I generally find that the difficulty is spotting the first one. Then it is as if the veil has been pulled from your sight, and suddenly you see them everywhere.

Sparkly Mushrooms
After years of taking photos of mushrooms in my local area I have a virtual map in my head of where they tend to colonise. Although, they are always surprising me by cropping up in a new location.

One of my favourite varieties is the Shaggy Ink Cap. Last year this duo sprouted across the road from my house. I noticed them as I was driving home, and pulled over the car quickly. I hopped out – leaving my dog perplexed in the back seat – and snapped a couple of pictures quickly.

Local Shaggy Ink Cap

A lot of the time you are taking images under the shade of a canopy of leaves and shrubs, and up close to the rich humus mushrooms love, which presents the challenge of shooting photographs in low-light conditions. And we are not always blessed with sunlight during what’s optimistically called summer in Ireland.


I don’t pack a lot of equipment with me. I don’t own a DSLR for instance. I’ve always opted for a portable camera I could slip into a bag or a pocket, and pull out quickly when I needed it.

Orange Drop

These days I take a lot of my photographs with my mobile phone camera, as it’s on me all the time. ‘The camera you carry is the camera you use’, is a version of a mantra you hear often among photographers.

Black and green

Mushrooms appear quickly and can disappear just as fast. The main axiom I follow is: ‘Take the shot when you see it’. You may not have the opportunity again.

It turns out to be a good philosophy for life too.

Maura McHugh lives in Galway, Ireland, and writes comic books and prose. Her latest collection is Twisted Fairy Tales, which is available to buy in the USA.