Book birthday! SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is published today by the excellent Black Shuck Books. It’s a lost-in-the-forest changeling story. A teen boy disappears during a camping trip & the person who reappears is entirely different – but only his father refuses to be taken in.
“A seemingly impossible premise becomes increasingly real in this inventive and heartbreaking tale of loss.” Lucie McKnight Hardy
“Parenthood is a forest of emotions, including jealousy, confusion and terror, in Shade of Stillthorpe. It’s a dark mystery that resonated deeply with me.” Aliya Whiteley
New book news! My novella SHADE OF STILLTHORPE will be published by Black Shuck Books on 26th April 2022. It’s a weird changeling story about a teen boy who is lost in the woods and then returns looking entirely unrecognisable – to his father, at least.
It’s had some wonderful endorsements from writers whose work I love. Firstly, from Lucie McKnight Hardy: ‘A seemingly impossible premise becomes increasingly real in this inventive and heartbreaking tale of loss.’
And Aliya Whiteley said: ‘Parenthood is a forest of emotions, including jealousy, confusion and terror, in Shade of Stillthorpe. It’s a dark mystery that resonated deeply with me.’
There’s certainly been a sense of things having come to a standstill in 2021. I’ve left the house a lot less than usual (even when it was allowed), and my starting point on that score was not much at all. However, in terms of my published work, I have to remind myself that things actually did happen, even though there was relatively little feedback when they did.
Despite having had no opportunity to speak to anybody in person about it, I published a novel this year: the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Back to Front Murder, which has gone across well, and seems to have satisfied Holmesians and casual readers alike, as far as I can tell. I’m particularly pleased that the consensus is that the novel captures Conan Doyle’s style and Watson’s voice, as this was the aspect I found most daunting, though it turned out to be the most satisfying to tackle.
And there was a novella, too: Universal Language is a locked-room mystery set on Mars, and I’m very proud of it. This is the publication that’s most suffered from the lack of conventions this year, and I hope it’ll find its way to more readers when things open up again.
It’s been a good year for short fiction, with fewer publications overall, but all stories I’m proud of having written, appearing in venues I really like and respect. They were: – ‘The Andraiad’ in Interzone – ‘The Living Museum’ in Shoreline of Infinity – ‘Goodbye, Jonathan Tumbledown’ in Out of the Darkness (Unsung Stories) – ‘The Cardboard Voice’ in Nightscript
While writing fiction has often seemed trivial compared to world events, I’ve done a lot of it in 2021 all the same. In fact, I wrote far more this year than I have in any other year to date – I’m honestly not quite sure how! I didn’t write at all in January due to lockdown and home-schooling, and all but gave it up during the summer holiday, too. Despite this, I spent more than 350 hours writing, and wrote more than 285,000 words. As always, I’m aware that quantity is relatively meaningless, and yet I’m proud that I’m dedicating so much time to my favourite activity.
The chart above shows my progress with longer projects. The dark red, dark blue and green data lines show three completed novels. One of these is my upcoming second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Defaced Men, which will be published in August 2022, one is a non-Holmesian Victorian mystery novel, and the third is a difficult-to-classify contemporary novel that’s currently with beta readers. The light blue line shows continued work on a huge, mad novel that I began during last year’s lockdown, which I’ll keep fiddling with in between other projects. The light red line shows the first 20k words of a commissioned novel I’m currently working on.
So, 2022 promises to be busy. After I complete the commissioned novel, I’ll return to the two other almost-finished novels to make changes before sending out to publishers, then perhaps I’ll return to the enormous novel that’s been running in the background for more than a year. After that, who knows? But it’s nice to know where I’m going for the time being. In terms of publications, there’ll be Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men in August, and my current project later in the year, plus a short story in an anthology I’m really excited about – in fact, getting to write this story is one of the most exciting things that’s happened to me as a writer so far, and one of the best Christmas presents I’ve had in adulthood. More details soon, I hope.
It’s a funny feeling, being quite glum about the future in wider terms, yet remaining so excited about writing and work. Perhaps we all need to be a bit introspective and self-centred in order to get by at the moment – is that fair to say? Either way, I anticipate having my head buried in work as much as possible next year.
This week, my Martian murder-mystery novella, UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE, was published by the excellent NewCon Press. It’s available in paperback, ebook and the very fine signed hardback edition shown in the image above. It’s satisfyingly chunky; the word count actually edges it into short novel rather than novella categorisation.
I wrote several articles to introduce the book, including:
“…a fascinating mystery to solve while we are in the hands of a unique investigator and then get into a wider tale exploring humanity itself… a mixture of The Doctor and Columbo, [detective Abbey Oma] is a six-foot three private investigator who loves banter, often has to resist the urge to hug people and is very perceptive at working through the evidence and witnesses… a very successful novella mystery and also a great piece of science fiction.”
And, if you’ve read the novella or are contemplating doing so, you might be interested in the book soundtrack, available on Spotify: