Tag Archives: Snakeskins

The journey of a novel: Snakeskins

I hope you’re all managing in these strangest of times. After the first two weeks of lockdown and homeschooling, my brain’s starting to come alive again, little by little, by which I mean I’m writing again.

I’ll have updates about my next novel, Hope Island, very soon – but for now here’s a turning-back of the clocks by almost a year, to my last novel, Snakeskins. The article below was originally intended to feature in BSFA Focus, but after a mix-up it’s now without a home, so I thought I’d put it up here. It’s an overview of the writing and route to publication, which may be of most interest to upcoming writers.


Beginnings and false starts

In July 2015 I noted the following idea in a Word document:

Instead of the body’s cells gradually being replaced every 7–10 years, it all happens in an instant. This produces a ‘snakeskin’ version of yourself that is able to live independently, for a time. Somebody living a full life might produce eight Snakeskins, each of which continue to live for a short period after being ‘discarded’.

It sounded a rich idea, and even had a title built in. I began writing a story about a teenage girl experiencing her first ‘shedding’, roughly coinciding with her entry to adulthood. The result was… all right. I liked the depiction of the shedding ceremony well enough, but the aftermath felt too brief, constrained by the short story format. I had concentrated on this aspect: Perhaps Snakeskins tend not to be inhibited because they know they have limited time to live. Are they therefore more effective people? But this seemed only one possible repercussion, and more occurred to me over the following days. I wrote this list – the first item no doubt informed by the fact that I was considering quitting my job at the time:

Pros of Snakeskins:

  • You might be able to convince your Snakeskin to do your day job for you
  • Someone to confide in, who understands you entirely
  • Rejuvenation?
  • Sheddings represent important milestones in life, especially the first one

Cons:

  • Can’t necessarily control or even relate to your Snakeskin
  • Unwanted responsibility for someone else
  • Interruption to normal life
  • Desperately sad – like caring for someone with terminal illness

The short story had been vague about the world in which the characters existed. I began to wonder about aspects that might affect wider society. Had people always produced Snakeskins? Did everyone produce them? Did the process have some scientific basis, or was it essentially magic? How would Snakeskins expire – an ordinary death, or something stranger?

Continue reading The journey of a novel: Snakeskins

My Writing Year 2019

Snakeskins Titan bauble

I’m happy to say that this year I’ve written more words than in any previous year – 182,000 words, which is a great deal more than my previous record of 133k last year. However, I only spent 30-odd more hours writing this year (282 hours in total), so in fact the high word count is probably more reflective of the fact that I’ve done a lot of drafting and little editing in 2019.

I wrote:

  • Universal Language – Martian mystery novella (45,000 words), currently out with publishers for consideration
  • Four short stories, one of which was commissioned for an as-yet unannounced anthology
  • 85,000 words of my work-in-progress novel, a Victorian fantasy
  • 16,000 words and synopsis as a sample of a meta SF novel

Other achievements this year included:

  • delivering my first academic paper: ‘Aspects of the Gothic and the Uncanny in Les Vampires (1915–16)’ at the Tales of Terror conference on Gothic, horror and weird short fiction at the University of Warwick
  • running workshop sessions at Edge-Lit, FantasyCon and at York Library
  • not freaking out during a joint event with Claire North at Cymera Festival in Edinburgh

And some of my work was published:

  • Snakeskins – my SF thriller novel about clones and identity was published by Titan in May, and had a lovely reception among the UK genre writing community, plus it was positively reviewed in e.g. Interzone and SciFiNow and was picked by the Financial Times as one of their books of the summer
  • And the House Lights Dim – my first collection of weird short stories, themed around homes and families, which received positive reviews e.g. in Storgy and Black Static
  • The collection featured three previously unpublished stories:
    • ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ – weird horror short story about the fears of a sentient house for its occupants
    • ‘The Forge’ – weird short story about a man who overlays his rival’s brain patterns onto his own, with unwanted results
    • ‘Honey spurge’ – SF short story about the devastation caused by household plants
  • ‘The Bath House’ – weird horror short story about a peculiar cleansing ritual with a shady purpose, in Twice-Told anthology (ed. C.M. Muller) themed around doppelgängers
  • ‘What Are We Going To Do With You?’ – YA horror short story about Capgras syndrome, in Subliminal Reality anthology
  • ‘Hangers-on’ – weird horror short story about fears of parenthood and plastic limbs in a holdall, in The Shadow Booth Vol 3 (ed. Dan Coxon)
  • ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ – SF short story about the purchase of sleep credits on the black market, in Synth #2 (ed. C.M. Muller)
  • ‘A Crest of a Wave’ – SF short story about a married couple celebrating their anniversary on the Martian coast, in Shoreline of Infinity, Issue 15
  • ‘What Can You Do About A Man Like That?’ – weird horror short story about toxic masculinity and aural hauntings, Pareidolia anthology (ed. James Everington & Dan Howarth)
  • Also, five of my older stories were reprinted (as well as 12 reprints in my collection), including one, ‘Throw Caution’, selected for Best of British Science Fiction 2018 (NewCon Press)

One other milestone this year – I finally passed the 1 million words mark. It was always an arbitrary target, but when I started out in 2012 it seemed unimaginable that I’d stick at writing fiction for this long and this consistently, and I’m proud that I have. Right now, there seems no danger of me slowing down, so I don’t feel the need for a second million words-ometer.

This year it’s been a little unnerving writing a novel that doesn’t yet have a home and therefore may never be published, after the pleasant experience of writing Hope Island in 2018 as part of a two-book deal. Added to this, my current work-in-progress is knottier than any of my previous novels, mainly because it’s required a lot of historical research in several different areas. But I think it’s good, and I hope it’ll find a home next year.

Looking ahead to more certain aspects of 2020, I have three new short stories already lined up for publication, plus a reprint. Three of these are important publications to me for different reasons – more about those in the new year…

…and my second Titan Books novel, Hope Island, will be published in May 2020, which is something for me to look forward to and dread at the same time. It’s about parenthood, creepy island kids and strange aural phenomena, and it gets quite weird.

Hope you all had productive and happy years too, and here’s to the next year and decade!

*Thanks to the Titan marketing team for the photo of the Snakeskins-inspired bauble.

New interview (with me)

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction have published a new interview with me today. It’s quite a wide-ranging one, covering writing habits, recent publications, my work editing the British Fantasy Society’s BFS Horizons, as well as a minor revelation about my previous brief sideline as a bassist in a band that was actually pretty good. You can read the full interview here.

Another SNAKESKINS review and a ‘best of’ pick

I figured that the review cycle for SNAKESKINS was probably at an end, but it seems I was wrong. Last week the novel was reviewed in the Sun newspaper, of all places, and very favourably too! Take a look at the (slightly grainy, sorry) scan =>

Not only that, but following the Financial Times review of the novel at the end of May, the same newspaper has now selected SNAKESKINS as one of its best books of the summer! It’s only one of four SF titles selected, alongside Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful, MG Wheaton’s Emily Eternal and Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection. It includes only a short summary of the book, but featuring on this list, with those authors, is something that makes me feel enormously proud.

A sobering, startling satire set in an alternate UK where a privileged few live lives that are longer and healthier than most by means of generating clones of themselves — “Skins” — which instantly disintegrate. When Caitlin Hext’s Skin doesn’t die as planned, terrible truths about her world come slithering into the light.

You can see the growing list of reviews for SNAKESKINS, and read blog posts and listen to the book soundtrack etc, here.

SNAKESKINS reviewed in the Financial Times

This is a cheering end to publication month… SNAKESKINS has been reviewed by James Lovegrove for the Financial Times, and he seems to have enjoyed it very much! Here’s the final paragraph of the review:

“Tim Major masterfully weaves his plot strands together, studding Snakeskins with images of duality and metamorphosis to create a dark and compelling vision of corruption and conspiracy with a subtly satirical edge.”

You can read the full review online here.

Update: It was also published in the FT Weekend edition on 1st June! Click the image to enlarge.

 

Hannah’s Bookshelf radio interview

Last week I was interviewed by Hannah Kate for her show Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. I really enjoyed it, and felt far more comfortable than I expected – it was a long, detailed conversation, but there always seemed plenty to discuss, which has done wonders for my confidence with regards to forthcoming public appearances.

We talked about my recent novel Snakeskins, my upcoming short story collection, And the House Lights Dim and my non-fiction book about Les Vampires – and also my preoccupation with houses, nostalgia and baked beans in fiction.

I also picked my books to cling onto after the apocalypse: John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, John Updike’s collected Rabbit novels and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.

If you fancy listening to the interview, it’s available to stream on Mixcloud.

SNAKESKINS – two weeks in the world (almost)

SNAKESKINS, my novel about a group of people who produce spontaneous clones, was published by Titan Books on 7th May. That seems a long time ago now! Today marks the end of an intense and intensely fascinating period – a fortnight-long marketing blitz which involved huge numbers of book bloggers and Instagrammers posting information, snippets, Q&As, giveaways and responses to the book. It’s been unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past. As I noted in my previous blog post, it took me a while (that is, all of launch day, which I frittered refreshing webpages obsessively) to understand that this process didn’t directly involve me – though of course I’d generated interview responses and blog posts etc before the event.

Snakeskins Interzone review May19As I’d hoped, week two has been markedly more casual and enjoyable. As well as my easing up on the F5 key, this was also the week in which a greater number of reviews began to filter through – culminating with the new issue of Interzone popping through my letterbox yesterday. The Interzone review is very positive and I’ve been buzzing ever since I read it. The fact that the reviewer is so enthusiastic about the novel is incredible (‘unflinching characterisation and at times deadly prose’ … ‘he’s set the bar high if he’s going to top this’), but just as incredible is the fact that Interzone contains a full-page review of my novel at all. When I first started writing fiction in 2013, my stated ambition was to receive a rejection slip from Interzone. Seriously, a rejection slip, rather than publication, because it would signal that I was giving this writing thing a real shot. I was delighted with that rejection slip. Then the next year my first story was accepted for Interzone – my first big sale, and the moment when I felt like I might have something to offer as a writer. To have graduated to a full-page review of my new novel feels equally as significant a milestone.

So, that was a big moment. What else? I was tipped off that a full-page ad for the book appeared on the back cover of Locus magazine (the US genre trade mag), which is pretty ace (thank you, Titan!). But while I wait for more reactions from readers and reviewers, the main activity has been updates on various book blogs. On top of the interviews and guest posts I mentioned last week, these pieces were published this week:

Oh, and I recorded my first radio interview! If you’re in the Manchester area you can listen to me talk at length to Hannah Kate on her show, Hannah’s Bookshelf (Saturday 18th May, 2–4pm). After the broadcast I’ll share links to listen online. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, but I’ll be wincing in embarrassment when I listen to the show, no doubt.

And there have been more reviews. Here are just a few:

Snakeskins has so much more in it than you might first imagine. It’s packed full of slowly revealed alternate history, it has mystery that unfolds at a great pace, and characters who aren’t superheroes but real people with believable motivations and personal stories. I read Snakeskins in one day because I couldn’t put it down, but the story, the world, and those who inhabit it will stay with me much, much longer.” Set the Tape

“Snakeskins is an excellently crafted and often horrifying look at identity and what it means to be human. … A keen look at human nature and the workings of a corrupt government” Pythia Reads

“I really went into this one not knowing what to expect, and ended up devouring it in two days! It’s fast-paced, the characters are well developed, it’s weird, and it’s totally British … I think folks who are into things like The X-Files or Orphan Black would love this!” Grimdark Dad

“This is an intriguing SciFi conspiracy novel which, as with all good SciFi, uses high concept ideas to explore prescient issues about our society’s treatment of people, and it’s bloody good too.” The Hebridean Reader

There are a lot more reviews besides those – I’m doing my best to collect them all on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page.

On top of this, I’ve been keeping an eye (okay, checking twice a day) on the Goodreads page for the book. It’s looking okay, I think! As of today there are 20 ratings, with a mean average of exactly 4 stars. If you do read the novel, I’d be grateful if you could post an honest review on Goodreads and, even better, Amazon. I’m told that amazing things happen if you get to 50 reviews, and I daren’t even imagine what that might be.

So, in short, all still going well. I suspect I’ll feel slightly adrift next week, without the tangible evidence of book blog updates. I’ve have to keep reminding myself that I have proof that people are reading the book right now, because that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

SNAKESKINS – its first few days in the world

Well… It’s been a dizzying week. SNAKESKINS was published on Tuesday! It’s in hundreds of bookshops in the UK and the USA – I have photographic evidence! It’s being read right now! People seem to like it!

If I’m honest, I didn’t much enjoy publication day itself. My jittery anxiety translated into me checking my phone every 10 minutes for updates (and there were updates, every time). Wednesday was a bit better. By Thursday I was in the groove.

Because all that goodwill I mentioned a few days ago? It seems that it wasn’t just talk. To begin with, people are buying the book. They’re walking into bookshops or adding it to their Amazon cart. Phew. Furthermore, people who’ve read it seem to have genuinely enjoyed the experience. Whether all of this leads to more sales and more readers, I have no idea, and it’s out of my control. But things are still going as well as I could possibly hope. I keep trying to take snapshots of the current state of things, and the snapshots keep encouraging me.

The most visible evidence that the book is real and out there is the social media promotional tour going on right now. I’m a newbie to Instagram, but there seems a lot of traffic surrounding the book, ably orchestrated by the Titan marketing team, who are amazing. Part of learning to go with the flow this week has been making a decision that the Instagram activity doesn’t need to involve me, and perhaps is better off for me watching but not participating – as mixed in with the Q&As, giveaways and terrific photos are reviews and comments. I’m applying the age-old author rule of not responding to reviews, even when they’re positive. (But do you know what? They really are positive reviews, hooray!) If you follow #snakeskinstour or #titanbooks, you’ll see what’s cooking. The photos alone warm my heart.

Book blogs are more my comfort zone, and there’s a lot of blog activity too. Here are some handy links to everything that’s been published so far on this two-week social media blitz:

And there’s lots more to come!

Snakeskins blog tourFinally, reviews… any author’s waking nightmare. Except these are really positive! Here’s a taster:

“A heart stopping & thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances & challenge your perceptions of acceptance.” (5 stars) Paperbacks and Pinot

“I read a lot of YA, yet this adult SF novel is by far one of the most convincing portrayals of burgeoning maturity I’ve ever read. … It’s a remarkably thoughtful consideration of identity and humanity, as the best sci-fi thrillers invariably are.” The Frumious Consortium

“…bizarre, and deeply resonant … glimpses of Adrian Barnes and Atwood at her very weirdest … Somehow otherworldly and yet so incredibly human, politically relevant but also touching on universal themes of identity and mortality, Snakeskins is a novel I will be thinking about for a very long time.”  Folded Paper Foxes

“It’s an unusual setup for an intricate political thriller that coils in on itself, tightening the tension as it circles toward satisfyingly shocking answers.” Barnes & Noble blog

So… I’m more than happy with the ways things are going. Here’s to lots more anxiety and (hopefully) more pleasant surprises next week, as more reviews come in. I’m doing my best to collect articles and reviews on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page. Or you could just skip all that and buy a copy? Just saying.

Snakeskins Titan newsletter banner

SNAKESKINS publication day!

SNAKESKINS is published today! This is my grateful and baffled and happy and anxious face.

Tim Major - Snakeskins publication day 1Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy already or shared promos or just been generally supportive, to the authors who provided blurbs, to Titan editorial and marketing, to Rose. I’ve no idea how it’ll pan out from here on in, but the book has had the best possible start in life. Thank you!

Find out more about SNAKESKINS here.

SNAKESKINS social media tour

The day is almost upon us… SNAKESKINS will be published in the UK and US tomorrow!

Snakeskins blog tour

To mark the occasion there will be a ten-day book blog tour, starting today – two blogs every day. I know, crazy!

First up today is my guest blog post at Bibliosanctum, about a SNAKESKINS soundtrack to an imagined adaptation. It includes doubles, identity issues, an isolated Britain thirty years behind ours. There are full explanations of each track choice in the article, and the soundtrack’s intended to work as a primer to the book too – no spoilers, I promise!

Snakeskins Instagram tourIf you’re one of the really cool kids, there’s also an Instagram tour – follow #snakeskinstour to see all updates. The first post is a mini-review, and it’s a very positive one, phew!

Finally, one of the book blog reviews went live already, on Paperbacks and Pinot, who said that ‘Snakeskins is a heart stopping and thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances and challenge your perceptions of acceptance.’

Why I *almost* don’t want my novel to be published next week

In exactly one week, my novel SNAKESKINS will be published. That’s a good thing! And yet I’m feeling… I don’t know. Mixed. Mixed is how I’m feeling.

Here’s the thing. I’ve really enjoyed the long lead-up to publication of this novel. I sold it to Titan Books (…checks calendar…) eleven months ago. I wrote a bunch of additional material in September, signed off on the copyedit in October, received final proofs in January. Since that point the book has been complete, simply waiting to become a real object. I held an ARC copy in my hands in February, then a copy of the real actual book earlier in mid-April.

But even now, with hundreds of actual, tangible copies of the novel having been printed in two continents, the book remains unreal. In one week, on 7th May, the novel will be available to purchase in the UK and the USA. And I’m not ready for it.

This whole long period has been characterised by positivity. SNAKESKINS secured me a two-book deal and an agent. The ARCs were sent to authors I admire a huge amount, who not only read the book, they provided the most incredible blurbs. At various events, friends and friends-of-friends have wholeheartedly wished SNAKESKINS all the success in the world. The goodwill I’ve been receiving has been overwhelming.

I’m not saying that this goodwill is an illusion, or that it’ll evaporate in a week’s time. But I appreciate that all this goodwill is just that – a pleasant wish. In many ways, I’d prefer to stay in this period of daydreams and potential rather than face the hard reality of reviews and sales figures.

I can’t help myself from trying to read the tea leaves about how this is all going to pan out. There’s not a huge amount to go on, and I’m only slightly ashamed to confess that recently I’ve been googling the phrase ‘Tim Major Snakeskins review’ at the beginning and end of every day. But each of these tea leaves* gives me a Good Feeling:

Tea leaf 1: Titan Books are in a fantastic place right now. Within just the last couple of months they’ve published M.T. Hill’s deliriously inventive ZERO BOMB and Helen Marshall’s THE MIGRATION, which is as close to perfect as you could reasonably expect. I’m just about to dive into David Quantick’s ALL MY COLORS, which from the blurb sounds so much my thing that I’m cross that I haven’t written it myself. James Brogden’s THE PLAGUE STONES is out in a couple of weeks and Aliya Whiteley’s SKEIN ISLAND will follow soon. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be in the company of such writers.

Tea leaf 2: The guys at Titan, and my agent, are friendly and not really scary at all. Seriously, they’re lovely. Considering they’re THE GATEKEEPERS to this industry, they’re doing kind of a crappy job of being fierce and forbidding. I had lunch with Cat and George from Titan a couple of weeks ago and we talked about books and films and Art Garfunkel and it was as if they were just interesting normal people, which obviously is madness.

Snakeskins on Instagram Tea leaf 3: The Titan marketing team are clearly incredible at their jobs. There’s going to be a book blog tour, beginning the day before publication! And over the last few days SNAKESKINS has been popping up in the feeds of Instagram book bloggers. Each sighting of Julia Lloyd’s incredible cover gives my heart a little sharp prod.

SnakeskinsTea leaf 4: THAT COVER. When I visited the Titan office I met Julia Lloyd, the seriously talented cover designer, and I swear I thanked her seven times. It was only back when I was shown the cover that I first allowed myself to believe that a bookshop customer might actually pick up my book and buy it, and they totally should because even the spine is awesome and it’ll look really good on their shelf. Also: a great use of spot varnish.

Tea leaf 5: THOSE BLURBS. I’ve bumped into a couple of the authors since they provided blurbs, and I looked deep into their eyes, Larry David-style, and still they swore that they liked the novel.

Tea leaf 6: There have been a couple of early reviews, and they’re good! Booklist called it a ‘taut and fast-paced sf thriller’ and Publishers Weekly used phrases like ‘delightfully tense’ and ‘uncanny tale’ and ‘strong voice’. There are currently three Goodreads reviews (book bloggers, I presume), with one of them giving it 5 stars. I’m prepared for the bad reviews, really I am, and in the past I’ve rarely disagreed with criticisms and not felt too badly stung. But good reviews are good.

Anyway. This time next week the book will be out in the world, and either it’ll be liked or it won’t, and either it’ll sell well or it won’t. I’ve already delivered my second novel to Titan (it’s unconnected to SNAKESKINS), I’ve more or less completed a novella and I’m planning a bigger, weirder novel. My only ambition thus far has been to be allowed to keep writing, and to spend more time writing, by making it a legitimate part of a cobbled-together career. I’m writing more than I ever have before, so I’m winning on that score.

It’s only right to acknowledge that I do have a fair amount at stake. SNAKESKINS isn’t my first novel but I feel wholehearted about it. If it crashes and burns, it’ll hurt.

So all of this is why I’m trying to pay full attention to this moment, when there’s only potential, when I feel able to introduce myself to people as a writer and feel halfway convinced that that might actually be my valid identity, when I’m swimming in goodwill, when at times I’m able to imagine that this whole thing might actually turn out well.

It seemed important to write this blog post to capture a snapshot of a particular moment. I promise to provide an update from the other side. Wish me luck?

* Clearly, I have no idea how tea leaves are supposed to be read.

SNAKESKINS author quotes

Good grief. Here are the quotes that have been provided for SNAKESKINS by some of my favourite writers. Honestly, I feel a little faint. I’m very, very grateful for this support.

“Startling imagery, deft storytelling, and assured and engaging writing make Snakeskins simply unmissable.”
Tim Lebbon

“John Wyndham meets Black Mirror in Tim Major’s scintillating novel, a parallel world thriller, which takes as its themes duplicity, paranoia and what it truly means to be human. Snakeskins wrapped its coils around me and wouldn’t let go.”
Mark Morris

“A premise worthy of Wyndham becomes a twisty political SF thriller in the hands of Major. Snakeskins is full of action and surprise, keeping me reading, but the real hook lies in the rich seam of humanity within.”
Aliya Whiteley

“Another great page-turner from Tim Major! We follow Caitlin, a teenage girl, whose ability to produce ‘snakeskin’ clones causes emotional ripples that spread more widely than she’d ever anticipated. It’s a gripping and thought-provoking tale, with Major exploring the wider implications of cloning and extended life-spans in the growth of a corrupt new government which has consequences for all.”
Alison Littlewood

“The world-building is subtle and convincing, a plausible alternate UK where isolationist foreign policy has retarded the country’s technological and economic progress. A cautionary tale for our times.”
James Brogden

“Whether as page-turning thriller, coming of age story, or timely satire on a broken Britain, Snakeskins is a delight.”
Robert Shearman

“Tim Major has a talent for combining big ideas to create something exciting. With Snakeskins he gives us a SF thriller brimming with questions about identity.”
Priya Sharma

Here’s a page with more information about SNAKESKINS, and preorder links. It’ll be out on 7th May – not long now!

SF Showcase interview

SF Showcase recently interviewed me about my YA novel, Machineries of Mercy, as well as the upcoming Snakeskins and even a glimpse of the novel after that. The conversation covers the influence of John Wyndham, the original Westworld film and one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, ‘The Deadly Assassin’. Click here to read the interview.

My writing year 2018

This year I wrote about 135,000 new words – more than any other previous year (I usually average around 125k, and in 2017 this fell to fewer than 80k as much of my free time was taken up with moving house, twice). I wrote:

  • Hope Island – novel, in progress (currently 85,000 words)
  • ‘Red Sky At Morning’ – weird short story (2800 words)
  • ‘Throw Caution’ – Mars SF short story (3000 words), published in Interzone #276
  • ‘What Can You Do About A Man Like That?’ – weird short story (8600 words) for unannounced anthology
  • ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ – SF short story (2800 words)
  • ‘Dear Will’ – weird short story (2900 words)
  • Three pieces of non-fiction for as-yet unannounced projects, by invitation

This year, I spent 254 hours either writing or editing. I’m not sure if that sounds a lot, but on average it works out as 21 hours per month doing what I love doing – not quite 5 hours per week. When you put it like that, it doesn’t seem like much at all. In 2019 I’m determined that I’ll find the time to write for at least 10 hours per week.

When I wrote my summary of my writing year 2017, I noted that it had been a year of paving the way for an interesting 2018, and I suppose that panned out as I’d hoped. This year I had the following published:

  • Les Vampires – non-fiction book about the 1915 serial, as part of the Midnight Movie Monographs series (Electric Dreamhouse Press)
  • Machineries of Mercy – YA SF novel (ChiZine)
  • ‘The Pale Shadow and the Conjuror’ – mystery short story, Mystery Weekly
  • ‘To Ashes, Dust’ – Mars SF short story, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #61
  • ‘Throw Caution’ – Interzone #276
  • ‘Cast in the Same Mould’ – Shoreline of Infinity Issue 13
  • Six of my older stories were reprinted, including two stories in ‘best of 2017’ collections: ‘The Walls of Tithonium Chasma’ in Best of British Science Fiction (NewCon Press) and ‘Eqalussuaq’ in The Best Horror of the Year Vol 10, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books).

But, once again, this year has mainly felt like prep for a more exciting next year. Because the biggest news for me this year was the double-whammy of signing with Alexander Cochran at C+W literary agency, and securing a two-book deal with Titan Books. Snakeskins will be published by Titan in May 2019, a milestone around which much of my year will be arranged. (And Hope Island will follow in May 2020. Knowing that my novel-in-progress already has a home has changed my attitude to the writing process, though it’s hard to say whether the net result is that it’s more or less pressurised.)

Secondly, my first short story collection, And the House Lights Dim, will be published in July 2019 by Luna Press. Alongside 13 stories that have previously appeared elsewhere (including a novelette that was originally published as a standalone title, Carus & Mitch), there will be three new stories:

  • ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ (10,600 words)
  • ‘The Forge’ (7000 words)
  • ‘Honey spurge: Confidential report into dispersal, growth and catastrophe’ (300 words)

Other stories not written this year but to be published for the first time in 2019 include:

  • ‘The Bath House’ – weird short story (4000 words), Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles anthology edited by C.M. Muller
  • ‘A Crest of a Wave’ – Mars SF short story (2400 words), Shoreline of Infinity
  • ‘Kraken Mare’ – Mars SF flash (250 words), Martian magazine
  • ‘Hangers-on’ – weird short story (2800 words) for unannounced anthology
  • ‘What Are We Going To Do With You?’ – horror short story (6000 words) for unannounced anthology

In addition, behind the scenes I’ve been lining up various events and projects. Next year is going to be busy. More on all that in the New Year.

Perhaps most importantly of all, I’m genuinely closing in on the one-million-new-words mark:

Publication announcement: SNAKESKINS

So… here’s something I’ve been keeping under my hat for a while:

I’m very pleased to announce that my SF novel SNAKESKINS will be published by Titan Books in spring 2019. Huge thanks to Gary Budden at Titan for picking it up.

Also, a related development: I’m now represented by Alexander Cochran at C+W literary agency.

Here’s a blurb:

Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.

Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.

SNAKESKINS is an SF thriller examining the repercussions of rejuvenation and cloning on individuals’ sense of identity and on wider society, with the tone of classic John Wyndham stories and the multi-strand storytelling style of modern TV series such as Channel 4’s Humans.