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Something I have learned in the past few years is that it is very easy to forget what you have achieved and that the ever-present voice of self-doubt will continually ask - what have you done lately, what have you got to show for all that effort?
So this is my reminder to me of what I've done, what I've achieved and what I hope to do next year. I think all writers should allow themselves such a moment of reflection.
The Infernal Clock
A fledgling step into the world of publishing with David Shakes. We published our first anthology, The Infernal Clock, back in April 2017. This book contains a story for every hour of the day, including two of my stories, The Graveyard Shift and Whispers. It also saw me taking a large part in the editorial role.
We then embarked on our second anthology, CalenDark, The Infernal Almanac with 16 stories, each centred on a particular day in the calendar. This book, only published on 2nd December, contains two of my stories, The Blessing of the Throats and The Dance. My editorial role in this project was even larger but I would like to thank all the authors I worked with for making it such a smooth process.
There are plans in the pipeline for a third, and final, anthology based on the concept of time to be produced next year.
Christmas in Spring
An invite from Dean Drinkel to contribute to FEAR Magazine's Christmas anthology, 12 Dark Days: One Hell of a Christmas, appeared at this time. Whilst the magazine subsequently ceased production, Dean still pushed the project ahead and it was released today. I was given the 10th day of Christmas, and had to link it to 10 Lords-a-leaping, this morphed into a story called The House of Lords, where I'm afraid another poor vicar suffers horribly.
First Novella Published
This was a major step forward for me. Dark Chapter press had put a submission call out for their Bloody Heathers anthology back at the start of 2016 (might even have been earlier). I wrote a novella for this, Domnuill-Dhu - don't ask me how to pronounce it - and they accepted. It involves bagpipes and general nastiness. Due to a variety of factors, this anthology of just 5 novella-length stories was delayed but finally saw publication at the end of September. Being one of only four other authors made me feel very exposed, a scary but exciting change. My story in this collection also earned me the following review from Nev Murray at Confessions of a Reviewer. A lovely write-up which I treasure:
'John was whisked away from Scotland as a child by his mother, and his aunt, Esther. He never knew why, but he always heeded the warnings from his mother never to return.
Now he has a wife of his own, and Mair has talked him into returning to his family home for the funeral of his Grandfather. She is sure everything will be OK. John should have listened to his mother.
Never heard of Stephanie Ellis before but by god after reading this, I will be looking for more of her work.
There are so many different feels to this, I don’t know where to start. If feels quite Victorian in many ways even though it is clear that it is set in modern times. In some instances, it feels almost Lovecraftian. In more than one scene it feels very Hammer Horror and I could imagine the blessed trinity of Cushing, Price and Lee playing starring roles in this story.
Absolutely loved this one.
It was lovely to meet him at Birmingham HorrorCon and thank him in person.
The Waiting Game
So, what else did I do?
I wrote another novella which is currently out with a publisher and I'm waiting a decision.
I completed a novel, Live, based on a near-future world which has suffered both a flu pandemic and loss of power from normal sources. The solution to the energy crisis is grim with some humans showing the ability to harness the earth's natural energy and become 'batteries'. I've sent the first few chapters to Gollancz and yes, I'm waiting.
I submitted a 12,000 word story to the The Binge-Watching Cure for their Horror Anthology.
A short story is with Electric Spec.
Another story is with Titan Books for their New Fears 2 anthology.
I've compiled a collection of my previously published (and some unpublished stories) which I will put out hopefully in the spring of next year, if not sooner. The delay is due to the stories I am awaiting decisions on. If they don't get accepted by their respective markets, I intend to include them in the collection.
I started another novel, based on a short story, Transcending Nature, which I wrote a couple of years ago. This story is due to be published some time next year - I hope. It's one of those instances of the ups and downs in publishing. It is an industrial horror but one which was put on hold due to The Infernal Clock and other commitments. I intend to restart it soon.
Having written a couple of folk horror short stories in the past, I really wanted to develop a novel in this field. This year, bar the final 2 chapters I have yet to write, I did it as part of NaNo and used the discipline of the month to get me to the 50000 mark. I intend to get The Five Turns of the Wheel, edited and sent somewhere next year.
The Horror Tree is a brilliant resource for authors and every week publishes the latest calls for flash, short stories, novels and novellas. It's where I found many of my own publishing opportunities. Following a post from Stuart Conover, I volunteered to help as co-editor for the site's online magazine, Trembling With Fear, my way of giving back. Since July, this has seen me reading and editing flash submissions from writers across the globe. It does take a lot of work - perhaps I should be careful what I volunteer for - but has proved strangely enjoyable. If you write drabbles or flash (max 1500 words) in the speculative fiction genre, send them in. We'd love to read them.
Book Reviews and Beta Reading
I've done a number of reviews for Crystal Lake Publishing this year, receiving free ARCs in return for an honest review and I've also joined the review team at HorrorAddicts.com. Another 'giving back'. I don't regard myself as a professional reviewer by any means, I mean the writer won't necessarily get those 'sound bites' from me that some reviewers give. I just want to show that I have read the book and enjoyed it. That is the most important thing for a writer to know.
I post my reviews here, on goodreads and on Amazon; I'm happy to read people's work - but please nothing too extreme.
As well as reviews, I've become involved with a small beta-reading group run by Emerian Rich of HorrorAddicts. Each month I get a few short stories, a chapter in progress etc for me to comment on, these may be from a typo/grammar point of view or assessing the story line and whether it works or not. Reading other people's work either in beta stage or at review is a real learning process - and I get free stories.
And Finally - Flash
I am still writing this, not as much as I used to but have managed to be a fairly regular contributor to: Microcosms weekly competition; FlashFeed, the latest FlashDogs platform where you will find some of the best flash writers in the field; Visual Verse - 50-500 words in 1hr; Verstype - cut-up poetry and Janet Reid's occasional competitions.
So, all in all, quite a lot achieved this year and already things in the pipeline. I wonder what I'll be writing about this time next year. Why don't you take a few minutes and reflect on your own achievements?
A writer - I think that says it all.