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‘She Walks in Shadows’ arrives in Australia

My first story in an anthology :-)

‘Eight Seconds’: my first story in an awesome, illustrated anthology :-)

Pandora Hope|10 January 2016

Pivotal moments in a normal life: birth, graduation, first tax return, shacking up, nappies, the end. Pivotal moments in a writer’s life: your first rejection slip, your first published story in a magazine, your second rejection slip (more depressing than the first), your first story in a great, big, fat, gorgeous anthology bulging with writers  you’ve been following with awe and envy…

It’s happened. ‘She Walks in Shadows’ has just hit Australian shores and I’m holding a copy in my hot little hands (it’s always hot here, so I’m trying not to get sweat smears on the gorgeous cover.) I check the contents page for the tenth time to make sure my name is really there. Yep. ‘Eight Seconds’ by Pandora Hope. It’s still there, snuggled amongst the stories of some of my favourite dark fantasy and horror writers.

So the world holds its breath. Nobody else notices, but I do. In the age of online publishing, there is something special about holding a beautiful book in your hands. Especially one with your story in it.

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In the beginning….

Creation—if only it were this easy

Creation—if only it were this easy

Pandora Hope|5 January 2016

This article is strictly for newbies. It’s a confession and a lament. It is about what happens BEFORE your first novel is selling millions (thousands? dozens?) on Amazon. Before you even have a novel—or perhaps even a complete short story.

It is, in other words, about beginnings.

At least, it’s a warts and all tale of my experience as a ‘beginner’, a ‘newbie writer’. I know that you are out there, fellow writing babies, sweating, screaming, or, in some rare cases, absolutely serene. The serene ones can tune out now. You’re on the side of the gods. Creation is a breeze! Seven days, pfft! You could do a story in a weekend.

This post is for the rest of us. The dispossessed. The ones with enough reject slips to paper a wall. We are not fans of the creation myth.

So if a blank piece of paper (or blank screen) brings you out in a sweat, know that you are not alone. You’re not going to trumpet your failures on Twitter or Facebook, but maybe they’re showing a little behind your brave smile. I see you (and yes, I hate those phenomenal success stories on Facebook and Twitter as much as you do). Okay, nobody said the world was fair, but no-one prepared you for this degree of suffering. Failure is a bitter thing.  Continue reading

Serious comedy

So you think you're funny?

So you think you’re funny?

Sean McMullen|9 May 2015

Some years ago I was in the green room at a World SF convention when an organizer dashed in and asked me to chair a panel on comedy. Someone else was double booked, as I recall. I didn’t like the idea of doing something like that with no notice at all, but then I heard Terry Pratchett’s voice behind me. I turned around and called out:

“Hey Terry, want to chair a panel on comedy?”


“In about thirty seconds.”

“Oh good, let’s go.”

Comedy Panel at Chicago Convention: L to R: George R.R. Martin, David Langford, Terry Pratchett, Sean McMullen

Comedy Panel at Chicago Convention: L to R: George R.R. Martin, David Langford, Terry Pratchett, Sean McMullen

We set off, preparing as we walked. More and more people fell in behind Terry as we made our way to the room, all looking very eager as the word spread: Pratchett’s going to talk about comedy! It was a bit like being in a Diskworld adventure … or maybe we really were there. The panel also featured George R.R. Martin and David Langford, and it went over very well. This may sound strange coming from a panelist, but I actually learned a lot about comedy in that hour.

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Launch of new six-part YA fantasy ‘The Warlock’s Child’

'The Warlock's Child' by Paul Collins and Sean McMullen, a six-part young adult fantasy launched on 18 April

‘The Warlock’s Child’ by Paul Collins and Sean McMullen, a six-part young adult fantasy launched on 18 April

Sean McMullen|16 April 2015

The first book of a young adult series that I wrote with Paul Collins, The Burning Sea, will be launched by Ford Street Publishing this Saturday (18th April). The series is The Warlock’s Child, and will be published in six parts between now and September.

The series was written in six parts so that reluctant readers would not be frightened off by the sight of a hundred thousand word epic in a single volume, while the proficient readers would be hooked by the fast moving plot. The artist Marc McBride, best known for the Deltora Quest covers, did the wonderful dragon paintings for the six covers. The Burning Sea has already sold out its first print run and had a reprint since its 1st April release.


Sean’s story in new climate change anthology

Climate Change anthology

Sean’s story ‘The Precedent’ appears in new anthology

Sean McMullen|16 April 2015

My story about climate criminal trials, The Precedent, will be published in the climate fiction anthology Loosed Upon the World next August. It’s in some pretty illustrious company, as you can see from the cover, and is edited by John Joseph Adams ((

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Dump the infodump

Too much information

Information overload

Pandora Hope & Sean McMullen|10 March 2015

All of us have seen it, that lump of words sitting in the middle of our stories like a constipated bean bag. It needs to be there, because you have a load of information to get across to the reader quickly and you’re right on the word limit. It’s impossible to make a bean bag exciting. Right? Wrong.

I used to know some medieval reenactment people who dressed up in armour and fought mock battles. They even had siege engines which fired bean bags. If you got hit by a flying bean bag, you were declared dead and had to leave the field. Under those circumstances, bean bags were to be taken very seriously.

Infodumps are similar. If, for example, you want to show that a guy is dangerous, you can do a physical description of his haircut, tats and scars, followed by notes on his childhood, education, military and martial arts training, and police record. Or you can do what Neil Gaiman did at the start of an episode of the BBC series Neverwhere: “You can call me Mr Croup. You can call my brother associate Mr Vandermaar. You may have had nightmares about us.”

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Research or write?


Sean McMullen|15 February 2015

What have nuclear weapons got to do with your writing? What’s that? You say you’re not into post-apocalyptic stories? Actually this is about how to do research, but the development of the first Soviet atomic bomb has a very important lesson for you.

In 1947 the German scientist Gunter Wirths was a rather unwilling guest of the Soviets, and they had just learned that their uranium was purer than what the Americans produced. A minister told this to Wirths, and said he was very proud of it. Wirths said “Is no use to be proud of it, because Americans make it just as pure as is necessary, and you do by far more, and that makes it very expensive.” The minister replied “You damn Germans.”

Stop and think about that. How many times have you done way, way more research than you could have possibly needed to write your story, just because it’s interesting – then tossed most of it away. You almost certainly have a full time job if you are on this site, but have aspirations to be a writer. That means your free time has around eight hours chomped out of it by your job. Remove another eight hours for sleep, and four more for eating, shopping, Facebook and taking out the garbage. You are now down to four hours for writing.

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Who are these characters?


characters Sean McMullen|16 January 2015

Why are you writing? The chances are you want to create a ‘perfect’ characters. Worse – yes, worse – you may want to be one of your characters. Bad approach. I’ve seen that happen a lot while judging writing competitions and running writing workshops. I’ve even seen it happen in professionally published novels.

What is wrong with the author being in love with a character, or being one of them? For starters, characters like that can do no wrong, and this is seriously boring. Well, to everyone except the author, anyway. What do Dexter Morgan, Walter White and Sherlock all have in common? Apart from being guys, and being in television series, they get it wrong sometimes and get pushed to the limit. They are flawed, and they spend a lot of time cleaning up mistakes, yet they are still great characters.

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When a great idea isn’t enough


Inspiration without perspiration?

Sean McMullen|4  January 2015

I call this the Eureka phenomenon, and I bet you’ve experienced it at least once in your life.

Imagine it’s New Year’s resolution time and you see a poster of a very buff body promoting your local gym. What better way to turn your life around, you think. By the next day you’ve joined the gym and are eyeing off the heaviest weights, imagining your own reinvented physique on that poster in a month or so. So you grab the biggest barbell, and…well, that afternoon you’re at the doctors with a sprained back and a demolished fantasy.

So what does this have to do with writing? More than you might think. You’ve just come up with a stunningly original idea for a novel—Eureka! You’re positive it’s going to be the world’s next mega hit and you’ll need a body guard to protect you from adoring fans. This idea is so hot that you won’t even tell your best friend and you’re thinking about hiring a copyright lawyer.

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‘The Ferry Man’ by Pandora Hope in Interzone (January 2015)

Pandora Hope|4 January 2015

I loved writing this story. Having overdosed on vampires, werewolves, witches and angels, it was wonderful to explore the little-known mythology of the Norse succubus, the huldra. Rather than robbing their victims of blood, succubi survive on the life-force of their victims, a concept I thought had fascinating parallels with human relationships. I’ve studied runology and Norse mythology for five years now, and find it endlessly fascinating. I hope this story inspires readers to explore the myths and legends of the true lands of ice and fire.
The story is published by TTA publishing in issue 256 of Interzone,  January 2015. The link to the magazine is
For anyone interested in the less well-known aspects of rune lore and Norse mythology, my Facebook page contains more information.

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