The Best of Ned Marcus Blog 2021

This year, I started blogging more and facebooking less (if I can say that). Most of the posts are short, but a few link to full articles. Here are the highlights + some other updates. You may notice that most of the posts are from the second half of 2021. This is simply because I increased the amount of time I spent blogging then.

Looking back over the year, I can see that, apart from updates on sales etc, I seem to blog roughly in the following fairly loose themes:

  • Psychology
  • My Books
  • Short Stories
  • My Reading
  • Personal Stuff

Forest in Shiding. Ned Marcus.Forest with viaduct above in Shiding


This has been an interest since I was young. I’m particularly interested in work on personality, consciousness, and the relation between psychology and religion. 

Anyway, here are a few of the posts:

Mar 04, 2021—"Nature is aristocratic."

I recently read something that Carl Jung wrote. "Nature is aristocratic." A small comment, but it made me think of the fantasy habit of creating medieval settings where aristocracy plays an important role. Perhaps this reflects an unconscious need for structure and hierarchy amongst many fantasy writers and readers.

Sep 10, 2021—An Imagination for Evil

Jung talks about the necessity of having an imagination for evil and mentioned a contemporary politician (1950s) who said that he had no imagination for evil.

Jung, of course, believed that an awareness of our dark side would lessen the risk of it being acted out in reality. He believed that naive ignorance was extremely dangerous. This is a theme I've been playing with recently in my stories.

Oct 28, 2021—An Inner Voice

I recently read an article on hearing an inner voice. The article discussed research in neuroscience and looked at the ways in which people hear, or do not hear, an inner voice. Just as some people have clear mental imagery—if they wish to imagine an apple, they can see one clearly in their mind's eye, whereas other people have no mental imagery—aphantasia. It's a continuum. I'm on the side of not having either. I wrote a short fantasy story based on the experiences of an aphant, which I’m submitting to fantasy magazines at the moment.

Inner imagery is a topic that we seldom discuss openly. I was shocked to discover, in a psychology class at about the age of 20, that some people literally had mental imagery. I'd always believed they were speaking metaphorically when talking about picturing something in their minds.

I've tried, on a few forums, to initiate discussion on the topic. Psychology is an interest of mine. Slowly, people spoke about it. I think it's a little tricky because there's the idea that if you hear a voice you must be insane. I don't think this is true. I'm not talking about when someone speaks to another person who isn't there, but they believe is. That's different. I'm just talking about a literal aural representation in the mind.

Of the people I spoke to, about half have a clear inner voice. The other half have a vague or partial voice. My sample size is only 7 including myself. Although I don't have literal visual or aural imagery while awake, I do possess both in my dreams.

One point brought up was whether people have inner representations of other senses. Touch (a few of us do), smell, and taste. Nobody claimed any inner representation of the last two. I imagine that there are people somewhere who do have inner senses of smell and taste.

My Books

This year I published my fourth novel, Orange Storm, which is the first book in my new contemporary fantasy series—one that blends in sci-fi elements, too.

I’ve published my books on Smashwords for those who like buying e-books there, and I was featured on the Indie Book Showcase podcast, where I answered questions on my books and writing. 

Aug 31, 2021—Why I Named My First Novel Blue Prometheus

There are two reasons why I named my first novel Blue Prometheus. At least, two reasons for choosing the name Prometheus. The Blue part is easier to explain; it's one of the primary colours of the planet, which I imagined in hues of blue, grey, and white.

But why Prometheus? The lesser reason is that I wanted the story to take place in an alternate version of our solar system. Some planets have the same name, for example, Venus, Mars, and Neptune, but I wanted some planets to have other names to give the world the feeling of being different from our world. So Earth became Dnasis, the moon became Palace Moon, and Uranus (which is inhabitable in the story) became Blue Prometheus because I'd read that the name Prometheus had once been suggested for Uranus. I've not found evidence of this, but I liked the idea.

But the main reason was because of the Greek myth. Prometheus gave fire to humanity, so raising their awareness. This is an important part of the story of the Blue Prometheus series. A powerful demon thinks an evil thought that ripples across the multiverse. It must be opposed. The heroes counter it by raising the Fire of Prometheus and so raising the consciousness of all life.

Short Stories

Although I put much more time into writing novels, I also like writing short fantasy and sci-fi stories. 

One of my older short stories, The Boatmen, which is already free to read on my website, was reprinted by the speculative fiction magazine, Metastellar, with some new graphics.

Flash Fiction Challenge

This year, I set myself a personal challenge to write a flash fiction story every day. I limited myself to about 30 minutes a day. After that, I usually stopped. Here’s a selection of the posts.

Sep 23, 2021—Day 1—The Sun Bearer

I started the morning with a 30-minute flash fiction story. It's incomplete, of course, a fragment really. I just wanted to see what would happen. The story was inspired by the Moon tarot card and a glance at the forest across the river from my house. A shaded area appeared like a throne occupied by the ghost of a lost god. The god leaves something on the forest floor for the hero to discover...

I may polish it later, but it's made me curious. What will happen if I do this every day—a 30-day challenge to write short short stories each morning before I do anything else?

Sep 26, 2021—Day 3—Writing Þ and þ

I'm on the third day of my 30-day flash fiction challenge—to write a short short story a day. The stories are incomplete, but I'm managing to get a first draft down. The word counts are 519, 560, and 544. I'm mostly sticking to my 30-minute limit but did go 15 minutes over on day 2.

The protagonist in today's story is called Ælfswiþ. After writing the story, which is set in the fifth century in the north of England, I had to work out how to type the Old English/Old Icelandic 'thorn' character þ. It doesn't seem to be possible on a Mac, but I found some good online resources.

Sep 28, 2021—Day 6—Blue Magpie Quill

My inspiration today came from a stationery blog I came across. I was surprised to see a short story featured on any kind of blog, and I wondered what sort of story I'd have written for a stationery or planner website.

It ended up being the longest short story of the challenge so far—just over 900 words, and it took me 45 minutes, 15 more than I'd intended. But I was up early enough that it didn't matter.

Sep 30, 2021—Day 7—The Netherworld

Today's flash fiction story is set in a netherworld that surrounds the protagonist's country. He's guided by the ghost of the man he's murdered.

Oct 01, 2021—Day 8—The Solar Disc

I'm now writing a short series of flash fiction pieces, trying to make each story distinct, but they're flowing on from each other. I'm taking this as it comes.

Abandoned by the ghost of the man he killed, the protagonist encounters light in the netherworld. A giant scarab with a solar disc on its back leads him through the forest.

Oct 03, 2021—Day 10—The Long Night of Sasha 12

Today's short story, which I wasn't able to finish (I think this one's going to become much longer than flash fiction) is science fiction. A spaceship crash lands on a remote desert planet and the crew are faced with the problem of no water or food. The only thing on the planet, apart from its vast deserts, are the strange oases that expand each day and disappear during the long nights of the planet.

This is one of the stories that I'll polish later and perhaps try to get published.

Oct 09, 2021—The Tallest Popig

Today is Day 16 of my personal flash fiction challenge. Yesterday and today I spent time polishing two of the short stories in preparation for a critique group meeting next weekend. Tomorrow, I'll be starting a new story.

Pausing to go deeper into two of the stories, led to some research. One of the stories is set in a village in England around 500AD. I wanted some Old English words to convey the atmosphere. I now know that in Old English poppy had several translations: popæg, papæg, popāg, papāg, and popig. I went for popig. I also learnt that the expression about the tallest poppy getting its head cut off comes from a story about the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Suberbus, who apparently ran around his garden cutting the heads of the tallest poppies to demonstrate what he wanted doing to his enemies in Rome.

Oct 17, 2021—Day 24—The Linguist

Today's day 24 of my 30 day challenge. I've written a piece of flash fiction every day except one.

Today was a short piece inspired by The Interpreter by Brian Aldiss—a science fiction novel about a human interpreter working for an alien race that has taken control of the world, which is well worth reading.

I added some fantasy elements to the (unfinished) story.

Oct 22, 2021—Day 30—The Final Day

Today's the final day of my 30-day flash fiction challenge. I found inspiration for my final story from a post on Fantasy Faction, a fantasy forum I belong to.

I've written a story on all but two days (days on which stuff just happened). Three other days I spent deepening one of my stories, Flowers With Deep Roots, which (after feedback from my critique group) I'll probably make into a longer short story. Deep down I knew this, but it was good to get confirmation.

So in total, I have twenty-five new flash fiction stories. Of course, they need polishing. I plan to write a more detailed article on my flash fiction challenge—both the good and bad parts of it—later this month.

Overall, it was a good experience. I won't continue with it, but I may write a flash fiction story every Sunday and continue as long as it's fun.

Nov 05, 2021—What I discovered after writing a short story a day for a month

First, I found out that it's not possible to write a bad story every day.

Second, when you don't care whether the story's going to be good, you free your creativity, making it more likely the story will be good.

Third, my mind works in longer stories (longer short stories or novels).

Fourth, there are times when a story can come out almost fully formed.

You can read more in my article Flash Fiction Challenge.

Sep 02, 2021—Warriors With Sheathed Swords

I've just finished a short story, science fiction this time, which was inspired by the line from the Bible: "Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth." I'm not affiliated with any church or religion but have read the Bible, and I've wondered about the meaning of this line. Psychologically, it doesn't seem to make sense if taken literally, so when I listened to a lecture on the psychological significance of the biblical stories by Jordan Peterson, and was fascinated by his interpretation.

He said that when the King James Version of the Bible was written, meek meant something quite different from now. It meant free from pride or self-will. A quick check with my dictionary of etymology confirmed this. He also pointed out that in the original Hebrew, the meaning was closer to 'those who have the ability to fight but who also have the self-restraint not to, will triumph in life.'

This idea stuck, and months later, when I was taking part in one of the regular fantasy and sci-fi flash fiction challenges I run in my writers' critique group, I started this story. It quickly became more than flash fiction. The finished story is 3,500 words.

In this story, a soldier meets a seeker, an artificially intelligent space pod. Both have been through extensive combat, and both have been rejected by their respective nations. They've also both learnt the value of restraint, and this saves them. In the story, they inherit a new world, a new life.

My Reading

I read for about two or three hours a day—sometimes more. My reading varies but usually includes a lot of nonfiction and fantasy. Here’s just a small selection:

Aug 22, 2021—My Reading in August

I've recently read Myth and Reality by Mircea Eliade. An interesting book about living myths (it was written in 1963) and their significance for everyday life. The myths, which have not been sanitised as so many myths have, give meaning to life, and the belief necessary to face difficulties, to lift people out of depression, to inspire creation, and more. Going back to origins by enacting the myths renews the spirits of those participating.

I also read the first volume of The Greek Myths by Robert Graves. His view differs from Eliade (and Jung), and he believes that myths are no more mysterious than election cartoons. Perhaps this is because the myths he deals with have been altered and polished so much over the centuries that they are no longer the living myths Eliade talks about.

Sep 19, 2021—I'm Rereading Mythago Wood

This novel by Robert Holdstock won the World Best Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985. It's been a few decades since I've read it, and it's different from the fantasy I usually read—different from most fantasy, I think.

It's mythic fiction, set in a wood in England just after the end of World War 2. A first-person story about the strange happenings in and around the wood. The wood is populated by mythagos, magical creatures created from ancient memories and myths that interact with the unconscious minds of humans.

Dec 02, 2021—The Knight of Swords

I've recently been rereading several Michael Moorcock novels, including his History of the Runestaff series and the Books of Corum. I originally intended to read small extracts in order to write a few list articles (the top ten fantasy novel type of articles) but have become hooked and have ended up reading much more than I'd intended. His novels are really novellas, and many writers nowadays would put the books of each series together to form a single novel, but it doesn't matter. I'm enjoying my 'research.'

Here's the cover of one of the books: The Knight of Swords. It's an old paperback and badly foxed, but I keep it because it's good and because of the cover. You don't see many covers like this anymore.

My old copy of Michael Moorcock's Knight of the Swords. Ned Marcus.My old copy of Michael Moorcock's Knight of the Swords

Nov 04, 2021—How Often Do You Read Fantasy Or Sci-fi Magazines?

I recently asked the above question on a fantasy forum. Almost no one regularly reads them—most people occasionally or never read them. It seems that reading fantasy magazines is a very minority activity.

The commonest comment was that they're too literary, which leaves people cold. Another comment was that there's a sameness of stories chosen by the magazines.

The fact that the list of submission requirements that most magazines have are very similar also increases the chances of stories being very similar in length and style.

Almost no one said they never read short stories.

Nov 22, 2021—The Sword of Shannara

It's been a long time since I've read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, but I'm creating a list article of fantasy books (perhaps more than one) and I'm rereading the beginnings of fantasy novels I once loved. I've read a lot of criticism of this book, and some of it's justified, but despite its dryness and lack of humour, the book still hooked me (I felt less hooked as I read more).

Personal Stuff

Don't worry, it's not too personal, just a few things in my life.

Dec 06, 2021—A Riverside Walk

At the weekend we had a day of sunshine, and I decided to take a walk along the river to Wutuku, a small town in one of the valleys adjoining the one where I live. A beautiful walk between the river and bamboo forest.

A river walk to Wutuku. Ned Marcus.A river walk to Wutuku

Dec 19, 2021—Social Media

I’m reducing the time I spend on social media. I don’t use Twitter, Instagram, Tic Tok etc anyway—just Facebook (and LinkedIn for some freelance writing work). Even FB is a distraction that reduces the time I spend on focussed activities such as reading, thinking and writing. I’d rather spend half an hour reading a good book than browsing a social media site—it makes me feel better. 

The extraction of personal data is also something I dislike.

For now, I’ll still visit once a week. I may cut back further, it depends how I feel after a month of reduced usage.  

This means my FB page will not be updated so often, and if you’d like to follow my work, then signing up for my newsletter or reading this blog is the best way. If you want to contact me, just reply to one of my newsletters or use the contact form above. I like to hear from readers and fellow writers.


Language learning is one of my hobbies. I’m not great at it. I’ve learnt to speak in a few languages at a basic level, and then forgotten everything when I didn’t practice for years. Turkish is one language I learnt to a basic level and have forgotten. There are others, too, so I’m not a language learning role model, just curious.

The only language, apart from English, that I can really speak is Mandarin Chinese. This year I’ve been working more on reading in Chinese. I’ve always focussed more on traditional Chinese characters, but recently I’ve been using Duolingo for extra practice, and it uses simplified characters, which take some getting used to. 

I’ve experimented with Russian and other languages spoken in some of the former Soviet Republics this year. Really just for travel.

And I’ve been working on my French again. My French is at an elementary level. I’d love to be able to access the vast amount of literature in the original French.

Nov 07, 2021—Music To Write To

I only sometimes listen to music as I write, but recently I've been listening to John Dowland—Renaissance lute music. Good for relaxing, too!

Thanks for reading! You can read more on my blog here.


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