Celebrating 2020

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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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The Good Man

I’m very pleased to say that I recently won third prize in the Irish Imbas Celtic Mythology Short Story competition with my submission “The Good Man”.

The top ten stories are now available in the Celtic Mythology Collection. There are free downloads available at Kobo, Smashwords and (soon) Apple and Barnes & Noble. At the time of writing it’s £0.99 on Amazon but that should soon be changing to a free download too. There’s also a print copy available through Amazon.

Celtic Mythology

There’s a lot of talent in the collection and it’s free! If you have any interest in short stories or mythology I highly recommend it.

I’m also taking this as a lesson in perseverance. Several times during the writing of this story I almost talked myself out of it. I’m glad that I stuck with it and submitted. So keep writing. Keep making art. Turn up, get it down on the page and then send it out.

The title “The Good Man” comes from The Dagda, which means the good god. He’s an important god in Celtic mythology and I was surprised when my story ended up being about him. I thought I was going to write about the Morrigan but my research took a turn and the story I wrote appeared in my head pretty much fully formed.

So follow your impulses.

And keep writing.

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Opportunity for Writers

If you’re a writer of fantasy or SF then you might be interested to have a look at Fantasia Divinity Magazine (or here on their Facebook page). They put out lots of interesting calls for submissions.

I recently had a short story included in their Winter’s Grasp anthology. I found them really easy to work with and the whole experience was a very positive one. I also thought their response time was very quick, especially when in some cases I’ve submitted work to publishers and waited two months or more to hear back.

They’re worth a look and a read.

Love & lollipops.

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Arrival

A little over three weeks ago I became a dad for the first time. This changes things. It was changing things long before the birth, as I pondered the future, my changing responsibilities and what was important in the world.

The prompt for the new Prompted Tales was ‘arrival’, which was very apt. I wrote a short story called After The Delivery.

It’s heavily influenced by the birth of my son but also by looking at relationships in my family and those of my friends.

I hope you enjoy it.

Love & lollipops.

 

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