The Great Work

The past couple of months have been another case of blog or write? As always, I’ve been choosing to write. Writing at just over 1600 words a day, I have a finished first draft standing at 83,973 words. When working on short stories I do about 500 words a day, getting my writing done in the evening, so this has been a dramatic change. It’s been hard work but fun. The story was bubbling away in my head and it’s good to see it down on the page. Time to let that sit and then I’ll check the notes I made along the way, reread and redraft it.

In the meantime, the things I was working on before need to be revisited, whipped into shape, synopses polished, covering letters edited, and then pitched out.

Also in the past few months I’ve managed to read and watch a few things. I’ve been enjoying Black Magick by Greg Rucka, Absalom by Gordon Rennie, WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Palm Springs, and The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell – both seen here in my “to read” collection.

Currently enjoying The Hollow Places by T Kingfisher (it’s wonderfully creepy…)

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The Long February

This month I’ve been working on children’s fiction; developing ideas for chapter books and early readers. I have a first draft of something I like, and also know how it would develop as an ongoing series. It was tough but fun. Every word has to count, the story has to move along at a quick pace, and you have to put everything out there. Best gags, best moments, best ideas. Throw it down on the page and trust that more will follow.

Now I’ll give myself whiplash by changing pace and working on an adult story, a piece of crime fiction with an occult inspired killer. I think. It’s still being sketched out at the moment and is liable to change on the journey from brain to page.

When not writing, decorating the house, trying to keep children healthy and entertained, or trying to keep myself healthy, I’ve also been enjoying re-reading Monstress. It’s a wonderful fantasy comic by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. It’s in equal parts magical and brutal.

Also, Jon Boden’s new album Last Mile Home, arrived in the post a week before its official release date! This is the third of Jon’s “post-climate change” albums, creating folk songs from a future world where society has crumbled and our resources are running out. I’ve loved the other two and look forward to revisiting the world he’s created on this album.

And if you have a BBC Sounds account, I recommend The Battersea Poltergeist, which splits itself between an historical drama of the 1950 events, and a modern day re-investigation.

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The Eternal January

Between work and various world events (you’re aware of them, right?) January has felt long. Like drowning in an eternal sea of wintery night; which I’m not entirely against, but after a while you fancy something different.

The month has also gone into putting together a longer form piece of work. Without the constant writing, finishing, submitting, feedback loop of writing shorter fiction, it’s made the month feel oddly unproductive. It wasn’t: the word count and the edited pages are there as evidence. But the short story cycle is addictive. It’s fast, so all of the highs and lows come fast too.

The latest draft of this new work approaches the end. It’ll sit for a short while (perhaps as one or two short stories are produced) and then be re-read with fresh eyes. Hopefully it gets to show itself to the wider world one day.

There are two books I read this month that I’ve loved: Who Am I, Again? by Lenny Henry, and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Both wonderful. Lenny Henry’s life and growth as a performer is fascinating and he writes in an open and honest way that’s very engaging. And Piranesi is a beautiful work of fantasy.

If you’ve not seen it yet, and you constantly find yourself getting stuck on the first chapter of a book, check out Voyage YA’s competition for the first chapter of a YA book.

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Celebrating 2020

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

It has been a year of hardships, with loss and anxiety and frustrations. There have also been achievements this year and it is, overall, a year I’m proud of. Hard work and perseverance have been rewarded.

The last quarter of the year saw a sudden rush of stories I’d been working on get released in their various anthologies.

All In A Row – featured in Behind Glass Eyes: A Haunted Dolls Anthology, published by Fantasia Divinity. Dolls are creepy, and the idea of haunted dolls terrifying, so I tried to write a lovely haunted doll story, one that ended with a sense of hope or peace.

Under Barrow Downs – featured in Footsteps in the Dark, from Flame Tree Publishing. A Gothic folk horror that explores the ideas of consent and sexuality.

Nansi and the Dragon – featured in Fairytale Dragons, published by Dragon Soul Press, an anthology of fairytales reworked to feature dragons. I turned an African folk story about the spider-god Anansi into a work of speculative fiction.

Witherwood Farm – featured in All Dark Places 2, published by Dragon Soul Press, an anthology of horror stories. I love the title of this (along with Under Barrow Downs, it’s one of my favourite titles), and it has a similar isolated setting and small cast of characters.

As a final rush of celebration before Christmas, I have reached the longlist of the Writing Magazine Chapter Book Prize. My book is called Sophie and the Big Balloon Race, and I’ll be nurturing positive thoughts in the New Year for it to do well.

I’m also going to be thinking about this blog and what to do with it. I’m happy to share and celebrate achievements, but I’m pondering what other content might be useful. Maybe some insight into the writing and publishing of a story, for authors who are still working towards that? We’ll see.

I hope there was something from this year that you can celebrate.

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Double Dragon

double-dragon

Not quite like that.

This is a double celebration as I have had stories accepted to two anthologies with Dragon Soul Press. It’s a publisher I haven’t worked with before, and the stories are longer than I usually commit to, but I’m glad I made the effort to write something longer.

Nansi Promo

The Fairytale Dragons anthology (expected November 2020) features fairy tales re-imagined to feature a dragon. I chose the story of Anansi and the Sky-God, which tells the tale of how all of the stories became Anansi stories. This was filtered through a SF lens to become, I hope, something different but faithful to the heart of the folk tale. Anansi is a trickster who uses his intelligence to get out of the scrapes he gets himself into. In my re-imagining, Nansi and the Dragon, Nansi approaches her problems with a similar intelligence.

ADP2 Promo

The All Dark Places 2 anthology (expected October 2020) is horror. I was exploring folk horror and the old plot hook of outsiders settling in a rural environment full of secrets. I had a cool name, which became the title of the story: Witherwood Farm; I had a cool ending in mind (which I’m not going to giveaway here); I had a cool protagonist; and the rest of the story built itself up from there.

Dragon Soul Press have a lot of great anthology calls at the moment, so if you write SF, horror or fantasy, I wholeheartedly recommend you take a look. Be sure to check their submission guidelines (good advice with any publisher).

More news on the dragons and dark places as they develop.

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Be Organised

Here’s a handy tip for when you’re writing and submitting material to publishers: be organised.

I recently went to the trouble of writing a short story for a competition and then forgetting about the deadline. I got pretty annoyed at myself about this.

Two weeks later, there’s an email congratulating me on getting second place in the competition… So… be organised…

I usually keep a list of all submissions I make (date, publisher, contact, etc) but I just missed this completely. I blame having children and not having an unbroken night’s sleep for four years.

In other news: very happy to have a story included in Flame Tree Publishing’s anthology Footsteps in the Dark.

footsteps-in-the-dark-short-stories-ISBN-9781839641879.0

Their hardback collections are beautiful (I have their Mary Shelley collection on my bookshelf), and I’m looking forward to this one.

Whatever you’re writing/creating, keep going, get it finished, get it sent out. And, you know, make a note of who you sent it to…

Read. Write. Be Kind.

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A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows: an evocative collective noun, but also the title of an anthology of cosy-noir stories, each inspired by a different collective noun for an animal. It’s a great premise for an anthology and I’m happy to have a story included in it.

a murder of crows

There were some lessons to be learnt in this submission. The style is outside my comfort zone, so I was apprehensive when writing and submitting it. I almost didn’t submit it. I came close to talking myself out of sending it, convinced that this genre just wasn’t my thing.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to myself.

Finish the work.

Send the work.

That’s it. The lessons I keep learning. The more I write, the more I manuscripts I submit, the more those two lessons get driven home.

At around the same time I submitted a piece of work I was very confident in. It was one of my preferred genres, something I felt good at writing. That particular piece was liked, but ultimately not picked up.

Finish the work. Send the work. Trust the editors to know what they want and what works for them.

If you like the sound of cosy-noir stories inspired by animals, A Murder of Crows is worth checking out, or recommending to someone who you think might enjoy it (and only £2.45 on Kindle, at the time of writing).

Or, if it’s not your thing, then just take away those simple lessons: finish and send.

Whatever it is you’re working on.

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Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Volume Five

Life continues to prove that I either have the time to blog about writing or to just be writing. I continually choose to be writing.

But I would like to take a moment to share some joy. The Kickstarter for the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Volume Five is now live.

Vol V cover_sm

The series does a lot to promote diverse characters and I’m very pleased to have had a story included in this anthology. The publishers, Dreaming Robot Press, also donate to school libraries and charities. It’s a great series for nurturing a new generation of SF fans and writers.

If it remotely appeals to you, please take a moment of your time to have a look.

Also, for those of you of a writerly nature, they are now open for submissions for the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Volume 6.

Onward; to adventure!

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The Laconic Guide to Getting Published

A little over a year ago I made a decision to make a concerted effort to research and submit stories to different publishers. In that time I’ve submitted fifty-one pieces of work and five have been accepted.

Here, now, is my laconic guide to getting published.

Write.

Submit.

That’s it. I thought about adding “repeat” but I might save that for the Special Edition Laconic Guide to Getting Published (coming soon as an eBook).

Whether you’re struggling to get going or worried about following up on a past success just write it and send it out. You don’t have to take my word for it…

“You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.”

– Isaac Asmiov

And…

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re  doomed.”

– Ray Bradbury

So…

Write. Submit.

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Distressing Damsels

I’m a little behind the times with sharing this one as it was released last week but: I’m very pleased to have a story included in the Distressing Damsels anthology.

Distressing Damsels

These distressing damsels don’t need a hero, they can save themselves!

The brief, essentially, was to rewrite a fairytale with the above in mind. I wrote an action adventure version of Beauty and the Beast. Instead of getting thrown into prison by the beast the heroine fights back and a game of cat and mouse (beast and mouse?) ensues around the castle. It features lots of derring do, fights and a few explosions.

I wrote this piece very quickly with the deadline looming and it made for a strange experience when reading the final version before printing. I spotted lots of sentences and sequences that with more time I would have tightened up but there’s something about the fast and loose way it was written that I think suits the action style. There were also a fair few ideas I just didn’t have time to put in so, who knows, maybe one day I’ll do an expanded version.

My experience with Fantasia Divinity was great and if you’re an emerging author who writes SF I recommend you check out their latest anthology calls.

In other news I’ve just found out another story I had shortlisted with a different publisher was rejected. Ouch. But there was some very supportive and positive feedback. For every success I’ve had there are a dozen or more rejections. Don’t lose heart. Write what you love and the writing becomes its own reward.

Now I’ll dust myself down and get back to work.

Love and lollipops.

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