Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Beast Realms (LitRPG novels)

Big news! I'll be publishing a series of LitRPG novels with the tremendous Portal Books. The series is called Beast Realms and it follows the in-game adventures of Art as he assumes the body of a lizard man, befriends a bug, a thief and a giant tarantula. Together, they set out to defeat Legendary Beasts and claim the ultimate prize: a Legendary Beast under their full control. But life's not that easy; there are deadly monster, Beasts and other players standing in their way...

You can buy book one, Chrysalis, now for e-readers, print-on-demand or through Kindle Unlimited.

Books 2 and 3 -- which explore the deep seas and vast skies, pushing Art and his companions to the limit -- will be available in 2021.

Russell Jones

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

New poetry collection: cocoon

Well it's been quite some time since I've updated my blog. The world's fighting a global pandemic, but that doesn't mean poetry stops.

Introducing my brand-new full poetry collection: cocoon

This is a book about transformations, and the worlds we create (often to protect ourselves, or to free ourselves). It includes poems about graveyards and river myths, space travel and rainy days. It experiments with different forms, including 5 full colour comic poems made in collaboration with artists working in Scotland: Edward Ross, Sara Julia Campbell, Aimee Lockwood, Mark Toner and Caroline Grebbell.

Published by the wonderful people at Tapsalteerie, you can order a copy now for £10!

And a couple of sample poems to get you started...

Russell Jones

Friday, 28 June 2019

Getting paid when you're self-employed

Getting paid when you’re self-employed

Ahhh yes, as a freelance writer I enjoy dealing with late/non-existent payments about as much as I enjoy punching myself in the genitals. A friend suggested I make a blogpost about this topic (getting paid as a freelancer, rather than hitting myself in the crotch) because it could help a lot of self-employed folk out there. So here it is: my guide to making sure you get paid what you’re due, and on time, when you’re self-employed (specifically in the UK, although this post might apply to places other than the UK).

For a bit of context, I’ve been self-employed as a writer and editor for about 5 years. I’m quite lucky because half of my income is generated by writing articles for a company which pays me extremely promptly (like, the same day most of the time!) when I submit an invoice. However, for much of my income I give (writerly) talks, readings and deliver lessons for other organisations (such as universities and councils/schools) and they are – quite frankly – shite at paying freelancers properly.

So here are 10 top tips (in some kind of chronological order) I’ve developed over the years to help make sure I’m paid accurately and on time. I’ll follow these tips with a few dodgy tricks that some employers use to try not to pay you…


1) Confirm the fee in advance
If you’re being asked to do work, confirm how much you expect to be paid, and exactly what the job entails. I was once asked to write 12 lessons at about £500. That’s not too bad, so I said yes. They then said each lesson contained 5 sub-lessons. Errr… so they actually wanted me to create 60 lessons, not 12. I backed out immediately.

You’re not being overly pernickety by asking for the details of a job and what’s expected of you. You wouldn’t hire a plumber and not tell them what you wanted fixing, right? If the employer has confirmed the fee by email / form, then they can’t turn around and change the details part way through.

2) Send an invoice straight away
As soon as the job’s done, send your invoice to the necessary person (usually someone in admin, but ask your contact if you’re unsure). They then have 30 days to pay – it’s as simple as that.

3) Include all the necessary info on your invoice
Okay an invoice should include:
- Your contact details and name
- The employer’s details (specifically the admin/finance person if you know who they are)
- The date the invoice was sent
- A brief description of the work done (you can break down the costs here if you did multiple things for the same employer)
- The total cost of your services
- A “late fee” note (I’ll come to this shortly)
- Your bank details
- IBAN Number (find out about this here)
- SWIFT number (find out about this here)

Here’s an example of my invoice, feel free to copy it and change the details:

4) Add a “late fee” note on your invoice
You’ll see that I’ve made the font on the “if you don’t pay me on time, screw you, I’ll charge you more” bit of my invoice RED. Much like a poisonous toad, it’s meant to alert the finance team that I’m not to be fucked with. It’s your legal right to be paid on time, and to charge if you’re not paid on time. I suggest adding a similar comment to your invoice.

Here is a really useful site for calculating how much you’re owed (a flat fee of £40 plus a % of the total as interest).

5) Keep a list of due payments
I keep a simple list of who owes me money, how much I’m owed, and when I should receive the payment by. I can then check the list quite simply to see which payments are outstanding. Making a note of the employer’s name and the amount due is useful, because it can sometimes be hard to spot them on your bank account details (lists of income and outgoings).

6) Keep an eye on your bank account
Before becoming irate for a non-payment, double check your bank account to make sure you definitely haven’t received it. I’ve sent irked emails to finance departments before, only to find that they had actually paid me and I didn’t spot it.

7) Send a “late payment” invoice as soon as a payment is late
When the 30 days since sending your invoice (in which the company should pay you) are up, you should send another invoice with an added “late payment fee” added on. Guess what happens when you add that payment? Yes, suddenly the finance team becomes incredibly efficient at their job and you are paid. It’s the single best thing you can do to make sure you’re paid, and you get a little extra for your trouble. EVEN IF YOU DON’T TO ANYTHING ELSE ON MY LIST, DO THIS!!!!

(Also, if you didn’t include the late payment fee note on your initial invoice, it doesn’t matter. By law, you are allowed to charge this fee – they should have paid you, it’s their fault!)

8) Keep nagging
Some employers are just dreadful. They’ll “pass on your email”, they’ll ignore you, they’ll say it’s being sorted when it isn’t. Just keep nagging, keep updating the late payment fees, and eventually they’ll realise that dragging their feet is costing them more and more money.

Some people feel a bit timid about sending reminders for payments, but it’s necessary if you’re going to survive being self-employed. You did the work, you deserve to be paid. They should be ashamed for not paying you on time, so NAG all you want.

9) Be loud, ruffle feathers
Some (usually older) friends have told me I shouldn’t push too hard or nag organisations (particularly councils) when seeking payment. To this I say: ruffle feathers.

Many employers will try to get away with not paying you, or paying you late (without a late fee added on) because they think you need them and will put up with it. Some won’t pay because they think “oh it’s just £50, it won’t matter”, without realising that you’re owed ten lots of £50 this month and they all add up.

If your polite nudges for payment aren’t working, it’s time to shout. Ask to speak to someone higher up, complain about it.

My philosophy is this: okay, by ruffling feathers they might not want to work with me again. But do I really want to work for an organisation which doesn’t pay me properly? No. For me, there’s no negative here (unless I am absolutely desperate to work with them again).

10) Know your rights, enact them
If you’re still not being paid, you might have to threaten to take them to small claims court. I don’t know much about this, but there’s support out there. I’ve found this site useful in finding out more information on my legal rights as a freelancer.


1) Losing the invoice / wrong person received it
Hah, yeah right! I get this a lot. “Oh it turns out Sally had that, and it’s meant to be with Jeff” or “Can you resend it?”- Okay, it could be true, but most of the time this is clearly a delay tactic. I recommend you send the invoice again with a nice “late fee” added on.

2) No reference number
This has only happened to me twice, but it was really annoying. Months after I was due to be paid, they told me it couldn’t be processed because I hadn’t included a reference number. I’ve provided hundreds of invoices before, and this had never been an issue. I added a random number (like: JONES001) to my invoice and sent it again. Scum. Sub-human scum.

3) Holding onto an invoice, late
This is a recent one, and particularly annoying because I don’t think there’s a lot you can do about it unless it’s very late. A university had my invoice, waited until the payment period was finished, then emailed me with a purchase order (essentially just a document telling me they’re going to pay me in a month’s time). So, you end up waiting two months for payment, and you can’t really send another invoice because it’s already being processed. Double grrrr.

4) Holidays – oops
“Sorry it’s late, Tardy Terry was on holiday!” – yeah, well I’m afraid it’s still late, so HERE’S MY LATE FEE ADDED ON, SUCKA!!!

5) Expenses
Some employers will accidentally forget about your expenses, or ask you to resubmit them on a separate invoice. A couple of times, this happened when they were meant to have already paid me for my work, which meant I had to wait another month for my fees (and possibly the actual payment for my work). You could probably add on a late fee for this, but it’s a weird discrepancy. I tend to ask “Do you know when I’ll be paid? I’m out of pocket because of this” or a similarly tiny-violin email.

6) Copy, scan, fill out the form, scan, email BLAH
This is one of my most hated tricks. Universities in particular are bad for it. They’ll send you a PDF form which you need to print, fill in, scan and send back. I mean, come on! This amount of paperwork (and the methods used) are really unnecessary and annoying. I’m fairly convinced it’s a tactic to put people off, as many folk don’t have the equipment or time to bother with such lengthy proceedings, particularly if it’s not for a lot of money.

7) Oh, you never asked to be paid
I wonder if this one's exclusive to the arts, but I doubt it. Sometimes, I'm (usually informally) offered a fee for giving a reading. I do the reading, and never receive an email about being paid. So, I have to get in touch with the organisers and ask for my fee. I know this makes a lot of artists feel awkward or cheap (and it's ridiculous you have to do this, but...) ASK TO BE PAID. It's not begging, you did the job. The organisers are either forgetful or they're trying to pull a fast one, hoping you won't ask for your fee so they don't need to pay it.

The golden rule here is: you did the work, you deserve to be paid however much was agreed, on time.

Aaaaand relax.


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Multiverse: an international anthology of science fiction poetry

If you're interested in international sci-fi with a poetic twist, you're in luck! Introducing, Multiverse: an international anthology of science fiction poetry.

This anthology includes over 170 poems by 70 international writers. It was edited by me and Rachel Plummer, published by Shoreline of Infinity.

If you order before the official launch date (early December 2018) you can get a discount, as well as helping to support this important book and its publisher.

All the details are here:

It includes poetry by:

Joel Allegretti
Claire Askew
Rosemary Badcoe
Aileen Ballantyne
David Barber
Juanjo Bazan
James Bell
F. J. Bergmann
Jenny Blackford
Brianna Bullen
Joyce Chng
May Chong
Peter Clive
Cribbins Cribbins
Gray Crosbie
Irene Cunningham
Rishi Dastidar
Sarah Doyle
David Eyre
Nathan Fidler
Karin L Frank
Harry Josephine Giles
Kim Goldberg
Pippa Goldschmidt
Vince Gotera
Caroline Hardaker
A. D. Harper
Cat Hellisen
Alex Hernandez
April Hill
Alisdair Hodgson
Diontae Jaegli
Paddy Kelly
Chris Kelso
Mandy Macdonald
Marianne MacRae
James McGonigal
Jane McKie
Ian McLachlan
Vincente Luis Mora
Josh Pearce
Jeda Pearl
Rachel Rankin
Sofia Rhei
Jennifer Lee Rossman
Ben Roylance
Lorraine Schein
Lawrence Schimel
Finola Scott
John W Sexton
David Shultz
Marge Simon
Mark Ryan Smith
Paige Smith
Marija Smits
James Spence
Sarah Stewart
Fyodor Svarovsky
Alice Tarbuck
Rosamund Taylor
D.F. Tweney
Tamara Walker
Tru Welf
Richard Westcott
Hamish Whyte
Andrew Wilson
Jenny Wong
D.A. Xiaolin Spires
Jane Yolen

Russell Jones

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Pet Poet Laureate

I've had to stay shtum for a while now, but can finally share some happy news...

I've been chosen as the UK's first ever Pet Poet Laureate! Big thanks to Blue Cross and The Poetry Society for donning me with the laureate crown (I'm still waiting for it to arrive in the post).

This means I'll be writing 10 pet-themed poems over a year, helping to promote the positive impacts of pets on our human lives.

The first poem, "A Tempest" was inspired by a cat (Ella) and her kittens. Ella was abandoned but her kittens were rescued by Blue Cross, and eventually they were all reunited. I was interested to find out that "Ella" actually means "Beautiful fairy" and so I was reminded of Shakespeare's The Tempest and all those cast-aways seeking better lives.

Watch the video of "A Tempest" here!

Find out about Blue Cross here!

Learn more about my role as Pet Poet Laureate here!

Russell Jones

Monday, 30 July 2018

Dark Matters - my new SF poetry collection

The wonderful people of Tapsalteerie have published my newest collection of sci-fi poetry! It includes a love poem from Doctor Who to a Dalek, people transforming into horses, a villanelle by Judge Dredd, robotic bees, lizard alien sex, post-nuclear fallout geriatrics and more!

Pick up your copy of Dark Matters from Tapsalteerie, it's just £5!

The special edition of the pamphlet (the first 50 copies) also includes a comic version of my poem, "Whatever Happened to the Blue Whale in 2302AD?" by renowned comic artist, Edward Ross. Here's a brief sample!

And whilst you're here, why not listen to one of the poems from the collection, recorded by Channel7A?   
Listen to JUPITER here.
* Listen to WAGGLEDANCERS here.
* Listen to TO HIS COY DALEK here.

And and I spoke to Colin Waters and Sarah Stewart about all sorts of SF poetry things in this interview at the Scottish Poetry Libary.

Pick up your copy of Dark Matters from Tapsalteerie, it's just £5!

Russell Jones

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Poetry review: Jonathan Bay (House of Three)

Poetry review
By Jonathan Bay
Published by House of Three

Straight off the proverbial bat, I feel I ought to announce my bias for Jonathan Bay’s work. We’re good friends, and we meet up almost weekly to discuss poetry and drink expensive beer. That said, I don’t think this is an over-exaggeration: Jonathan Bay is one of the finest poets writing in Scotland today.

Let me unpack that a little before I get into the review of this pamphlet. I have spend several years reading Jonathan’s poetry, and in one sense it has a fatal flaw in terms of gaining public attention: it’s probably not immediately going to smack your head against the concrete. It may not instantly appeal to poetry competition judges, for that reason, too. Bay’s work is subtle and deceptively gentle, but once you actually sit down and start to think it over, you realise you’ve unearthed some truly outstanding, impactful and excellently-crafted poetry.

It’s bad science to start with the conclusion and then follow up with the evidence, but that’s what I’m going to do. Bay’s work can easily be overlooked, but that’s a big mistake, so I want you onboard before we get going. Ready? Okay.

For me, this pamphlet is about re-examination and transformation. Whether it’s through poems about travel, surgery, emotion or family, Bay doesn’t shy away from the complexities of challenging topics. Nothing is easy here, there are few “answers”, but there are explorations and questions. It doesn’t ask you directly, it plants seeds in your head and waits for them to grow. In that sense, this collection is outward looking but through an inward lens. It’s overtly personal, but never to the degree that it feels unapproachable. It’s alien without being alienating.

Jonathan is a Californian transman living in Scotland, so links between travel and the body are particularly relevant to this collection. In the opening poem, “Riding America”, we follow the narrator on a bike-rider across the US:

Remember the feeling of straining metal
between your legs

Hopeless miles in sticky heat
my mind has forgotten who we were then

The body and mind, like the bike, has migrated. Taken as a literal reading, we envisage a sweaty bike ride in the sun, but through another view of mind and body transformation, the poem takes on new potential: “straining metal / between your legs” evokes surgical connotations. “Straining” and “hopeless miles” also infer mental struggle and a feeling of futility, with the near-pleasure (or perhaps the partial alleviation of psychological pressure) brought about by a mind “[forgetting] who we were then”. Whilst the speaker suggests the mind “has forgotten”, however, this truth is complicated by the plural address of “we” – perhaps more than one rider, but perhaps more than one self. Is the old self ever truly forgotten, even if we will the mind to forget them? This concept doesn’t only apply to people who have undergone physical change, but to anyone who feels they have changed (which is to say, everyone).

I could go on. In this briefest of sections, there are so many layers to peel away. At times the poems are much more obviously visceral and cause a near-physical reaction when reading them. In that way, Bay keeps us on our toes. We predict a gentle complexity, only to be hit by something much sharper; it cuts. In “Pap Smear” for example:

she couldn’t put the speculum
in and hold it

my degenerated vagina only
wanted to spit it out

We both felt badly
about the way my hole hurt
but I didn’t say a thing

how could you

To someone uninitiated to this world (and I expect to others) this felt intrusive in many ways. I felt as though I was intruding on a private procedure and reflection, and yet there are people (the nurse) present, and the poem itself is a public document. The real kicker, however, is that final line, isolated (which to me also implies something of the speaker). It simultaneously evokes several questions, none of which is necessarily obvious or absolute:

  1) “how could you” say anything about the practical problems faced by nurse and patient? That’s just how things are. There’s a sense of acceptance here.
  2) “how could you” do that to me? The patient might ask of the nurse, or vice-versa.
  3) “how could you” – a question potentially uttered by those on the outside: how could you change your body? How could you go through that? And so on, and so on…

There’s a sense of discomfort, intrusion, accusation, acceptance, struggle, all in three short words. I bow to the master.

That’s not to say the pamphlet is always serious or always so intense. There’s lightness, too, and though we might be swayed into reading through a single lens, that shouldn’t be the case. The more you read these poems, the more you take from them. They’re physical, emotionally poignant, asking questions and forcing the reader to ask questions.

Poems such as “Support”, for example, in which the narrator realises family support isn’t always the “big things” but also helping fill out forms or helping to “do math / at the kitchen table / with the light dimming” can, and perhaps should, be taken at face value.

This review could go on forever, so let’s draw to a close.

If you agree that poetry should challenge and affect us, I suggest you check out Jonathan Bay’s work post-haste. His poetry is approachable but complex and impactful, with layers which reveal themselves with time and patience. Whilst the publication itself is a bit strange (three poets in one collection, but none of the collections are titled) I whole-heartedly recommend the poems therein. 

Russell Jones