Aslant

July. An uneasy, humid heat pervades the land. As far as I’m aware, no stories of mine are going to be published this month. (This is not something unusual.) Instead I’m concentrating on writing new stuff. Trying to finish off works in progress that have been stewing for months. Blasting out new ones before they get a chance to atrophy. Making sure the word engine stays ticking over. Making sure I keep looking at the world…aslant.

Dawlish Pier, photo by Henry Szabranski

Dawlish Pier, photo by Henry Szabranski

I See Faces In Things. Don’t You?

Pleased to announce my dark flash story “Animus” has been accepted by Horror D’Oeuvres.

I wrote this story whilst tossing and turning in bed with flu, so that may explain some of its hallucinatory fever dream vibe. Combine a high temperature with a writerly imagination and all sorts of strange visions may result. Once I was laid up with tonsillitis and I still clearly remember the weird fish that swam across the ceiling during my illness. And a fever wasn’t always required before I started to “see things”. As a child I was taken to the doctor because I claimed disembodied faces floated about my bed at night and stopped me from sleeping. A course of placebo sugar pills later and the apparitions faded away…or so I assured my worried parents.

Nowadays I hardly ever hallucinate. Apart from the boys’ toys (which are always chattering away to us and to each other), I haven’t heard common household items speak to me for a good long while. Although I admit I do hear voices emanating from my phone from time to time.

“Animus” will “go live” later this month, at 12 EST on 20th June (to be more or less exact). A site subscription is required to read the full story.

Update: “Animus”‘ is now live at the http://www.horrordoeuvres.com site.

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Fantasy Circus Or Lakeside Scroll?

Happy to learn a couple of stories have been accepted in the past few weeks. “Within Without”, a hard(ish) SF flash piece at Lakeside Circus, and a 5K story “The Dragonmaster’s Ghost” at Fantasy Scroll Mag. The latter is the third and very probably final instalment in the “Mevlish The Mighty” sequence of tales that started with The Edge Of Magic and continued in The Clay Farima. I’m really pleased all three found good homes and readers can follow the whole saga (if they wish!).

Pure coincidence, but the current Issue 1 cover at Fantasy Scroll Mag by Jonathan Gragg is actually a pretty good match for the theme of “The Dragonmaster’s Ghost”. More details about this story and “Within Without” closer to their publication dates.

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Happy Easter

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Been a while since my last post. Reason being…there’s not much news on the writing front. Various pokers in the fire, none ready to withdraw yet. Past two weeks spent in Cornwall, the last week in the Lizard, the most southerly part of the United Kingdom, a peninsula surrounded on all sides by coves and cliffs and harbours and beaches, each day spent at a different one. Glorious. My body and mind are still recovering.

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove

Fantasy For Good

Very pleased to announce my story “The Edge Of Magic” will be included in the upcoming charitable anthology “Fantasy For Good”, edited by Richard Salter and Jordan Ellinger, published by Nightscape Press. Net proceeds will be going to Colon Cancer Alliance.

The anthology’s contributor line-up includes some of the best known names in fantasy writing. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m sharing a ToC with these people: Michael Moorcock (I grew up reading Elric, Corum, Von Bek, et al: they’re a part of my writerly DNA), Piers Anthony (again, I grew up reading early “Xanth” novels, “Kirlian Quest”, “Blue Adept”, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (before “The Empire Strikes Back” was more than an improvised twinkle in George Lucas’ eye, the only Star Wars sequel that existed was Foster’s “Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye“), Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Orokafor, Carrie Vaughn, Jay Lake…the stellar list goes on (see more here). Oh, and there’s also some guy called George RR Martin, who’s recently enjoyed some modicum of success with a popular long-form tale involving dragons, knights and zombies — but to me, he’ll always be the author of “A Song For Lya“, “Sandkings“, “In The House Of The Worm”, “The Way Of Cross And Dragon“…some of my very favourite SF stories.

Oh, and the anthology cover. Lookit that cover by Paul Pederson. Judge the book by it. Go on: judge it.

So yeah. Many, many reasons to rush out and buy multiple copies of this anthology when it comes out this summer.

I’m honoured and humbled to be a small part of it.

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A New Hope

So far January has turned out to be something of an antidote to the dark and dismal last months of 2013. November and December provided nothing writing-wise but a rolling wall of rejections. The start to this year has been much better: two acceptances (one provisional, depending on edits), and a Schrödinger’s hold note that may or may not collapse into a sale. My success rate in that sort of situation — and I’ve been in it a few times now — is about 50/50. So by mentioning it, I’ve probably just disturbed the wave function and jinxed it. Damn.

One of the acceptances is particularly exciting for me, because a) it’s for a story I really like, and b) some of the contributors already announced are seriously wowza. Like in, never in my wildest imaginings would I have wildly imagined sharing a ToC with these authors. In fact, I’m not sure I believe it yet. So I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm. Just a little.

More details when I can share them. Hopefully soon, one way or another. What I really need to do now is not get distracted and knuckle down and write some new stuff.
Snowdrops Keep Falling On My Head...

There Is No Destination

So it’s that time of year again. Time to look back. Time to look forward.

For me, a year of contrasts. In many ways, my best year ever, certainly on the publication front, with seven stories out:

Only a couple of years ago I was wondering if I would ever get anything accepted and published. Ever. At all. So, really, this is great. More than great.

But it’s also been a frustrating year. There is no magic point — at least, certainly not one I’ve reached yet — beyond which your writing suddenly becomes effortless and every story automatically publishable. Of course there isn’t. Just because you’ve had a story accepted before doesn’t mean your next story will get anything other than a form rejection. There is no Rubicon, no sudden “levelling up”, or club you join with a secret handshake (or if there is, I haven’t received my invite yet — hint hint), no flawless author magically emerging from a papery chrysalis of rejection slips, no golden ticket; each story and each submission stands and falls on its own merits, in competition with great stories from great authors, all vying for attention on the editor’s desk.

So the only thing to do is to concentrate on the variables you control.  The continued practice of your craft. The amount of work you produce and send out. Revise, re-target, carry on. Inch towards that elusive destination, that place where your words are finally perfect, your story greater than the sum of its parts. Where concept, theme, plot and character combine in a nirvana where nothing you could change, or add, or subtract, could make it any better.

Yeah. I know. That place doesn’t exist.

But that’s no reason to ever stop trying to reach it.

Shangri-La by Claudio Bergamin

“Shangri-La” by Claudio Bergamin