Tag Archives: ChiZine

Taking stock

Now feels like as good a time as any to take stock.

I’ve been writing stories and novels since 2011. Before that point, I liked the idea of writing but put down barely any words – the classic error of waiting for ‘inspiration’. I was an idiot back then.

So now it’s seven years later. I guess that’s quite a long time – my wife and I had two kids during that time. We moved house twice and moved town once. I got a promotion, then quit my editorial day job to go freelance. But on the other hand, it’s not that long. I’m trying to focus on achievements here, so let’s say it isn’t that long at all.

I’ve stuck with writing. I didn’t know I was a sticker, but it turns out I am. Happily, it turns out that writing is what I love doing. (And editing too; it would be tough to get very far with all this if editing was entirely a chore.) Another thing in my favour is that I’ve never seen rejection particularly as a critique. My first aim when I started writing was to submit a story to Interzone—not to get published, you understand, only to have put in enough work to allow me to send the story without feeling ashamed of myself. Receiving that first rejection slip was a triumphant moment: here I am, doing this whole writer thing!

Anyway. Seven years. In that time I have written:

  • six novels
  • two novellas
  • thirty-seven short stories
  • one non-fiction book

This all adds up to around 840,000 words—i.e. around 120,000 words per year (plus editing).

Of the novels, one has been published and two are due to be published within the next year. The two first novels were honestly never intended for publication (they were NaNoWriMo-style exercises when I was learning how to go about the whole business) and the last-but-one novel has been shelved, perhaps never to be published. Both novellas have been published. Twenty-nine of the short stories have been published or have been bought, and three of the remaining eight stories will appear in my first short story collection next year. The non-fiction book will be published within the next few weeks.

That’s good, I think. I’m very bad at telling myself that. It’s good.

But 2018 has been really good. Like most people, I tend to move goalposts, so that any ambition fulfilled becomes just the first step to the next thing. I’m writing this blog post so that I can appreciate that things are happening that I should stop and maybe marvel at.

So, 2018.

  • My story, ‘The Walls of Tithonium Chasma’, was selected for Best of British Science Fiction 2017. The story was first published in Shoreline of Infinity in March 2017, but I wrote a first version of the story four years before then. It was the first thing I wrote that I really loved – but magazine editors didn’t agree. I tinkered, resubmitted, tinkered, resubmitted. I’m delighted that it’s ended up doing well.
  • Ellen Datlow selected my story, ‘Eqalussuaq’, for The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten. I was stunned when I received the email (pretty much literally: dizzy and bumping into things). This was another story that had had a rough ride. I wrote a version in late 2014, then reworked it entirely for a themed anthology, but then the Kickstarter didn’t work out… It was published in Not One of Us in October 2017, which is where Ellen Datlow spotted it. I look at the contents page of Best Horror Volume Ten and I see my name there, and it still doesn’t seem real.
  • I got an agent: Alexander Cochran at C+W. More than anything, getting representation was my big hope for this year. But it was my big hope for last year and the year before that. And now I have an agent, and d’you know what? He’s a really decent guy, and we went for lunch and it was terrific. I’m really excited that my future projects will be planned and plotted with Alexander. I think we’re going to be a good team.
  • Titan Books offered to publish my SF novel, SNAKESKINS. I’m thrilled. I honestly can’t imagine a better home for the book, and already it’s a pleasure working with editor Gary Budden and publicist Lydia Gittins.
  • Other things, too. My second Interzone acceptance. Three new stories published, with five others lined up. My first invitation to write a story for an anthology. Invitations to write articles for three non-fiction books.

Then there’s that warm feeling of having book publications lined up. Over the last month I’ve been checking onscreen proofs of three books: a monograph about the silent crime film LES VAMPIRES for Electric Dreamhouse Press; my first YA novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY, for ChiZine; my first short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM, for Luna Press. And edits on SNAKESKINS, steady work on the next novel, and plans for the thing after that.

I’ve been working hard. I haven’t finished what I think of as my writing apprenticeship and I hope I never do, but I’m busier than ever. More importantly, I’m busy doing what I love doing.

I’m very bad at recognising where I’m at. I announce stuff when it needs announcing, but beyond that I struggle to know how to talk about it all. I don’t think I’m likely to get better at that any time soon…  but this blog post—self-indulgent as it is—is an attempt to face up to the fact that I’m very happy with everything that’s happening. A lot has gone on, and yet it still feels like the start of something.

[Oh, that image at the top of this post? That’s a chart generated by my writing tracker spreadsheet. It shows the accumulating number of words of all my long projects since around March 2013. The steeper the slope, the more concentrated the work. The gaps represent phases of writing short stories or having children.]

My writing year 2017

It’s been an intense year. My family and I moved house twice (from Oxford to a rental house in York in January, then to a house we bought in York in June), the first move being when my youngest son was only six months old. Sleep has been hard to come by and work has been sporadic – not that it’s been hard to get, just difficult to schedule given that my wife and I now share childcare duties right down the middle.

On the plus side, my day job has been hewing closer and closer to my ‘hobby’: much of my freelance work this year has involved fiction editing. In October I became co-editor of the British Fantasy Society’s fiction journal, Horizons (along with Shona Kinsella), and I’m looking forward to putting together the first issue early next year.

Finding time to write has been a challenge. I’ve written fewer new words this year than in any of the previous five years – around 80,000 as opposed to the usual 120,000ish. I finished up an SF novel, which is now out on submission. Other than that, I’ve completed a handful of short stories and a novelette, but I’ve spent most time writing non-fiction and doing revisions on earlier projects.

Speaking of which, 2017 has been mostly enlivened by Things Happening With My Writing, which is a great relief given that I’ve been doing so little actual writing. I had four new short stories published, including appearances in Shoreline of Infinity and Not One of Us, as well as the first of two inclusions in Hic Dragones anthologies – all of these publications had been on my wishlist. Perhaps more significantly, having signed contracts this year, 2018 will see various projects reach fruition:

  • My first novel for young adults will be published by ChiZine, likely in October 2018. It’s about a prison for young offenders situated within a virtual world and modelled as a sleepy English village. The original Westworld film from 1973 was a big influence, as were the London riots a few years back. The first task in the new year is to decide upon a title.
  • My first non-fiction book will be published by Electric Dreamhouse Press in summer 2018 as part of the Midnight Movie Monographs series. The book is dedicated to Feuillade’s 1915 silent crime serial, Les Vampires. Along with an analysis of the film I’ve written ten pieces of weird fiction, each inspired by an episode of the serial.
  • There’ll be another fiction publication in either late 2018 or early 2019 too! I’ll have more information before too long.

There will also be more short stories published in 2018, including my first audio reading and my first sale of a mystery story – see here for a list of upcoming publications.

So, I’m not at all glum about having had a static year. In fact, I can’t wait to get started on my writing in 2018. I have a few commissioned pieces to complete at the start of the year, a novel planned out and more ideas bubbling up. But as much as all that, I’m looking forward to getting a bit more sleep, too.

Oh, one other thing. I did reach the writing milestone of passing 75% of my first million (new) words.

My first YA novel will be published in 2018!

EXCITING! I’ve just now – less than half an hour ago! – signed a contract for publication of my first YA book.

It’ll be published by ChiZine, possibly in October 2018.

There’s no title yet, but it’s an SF adventure about a virtual-world prison for young offenders, modelled as a sleepy English village. It’s a bit Midwich Cuckoos and a bit Westworld (the 1973 film).

(Lots) more news soon!