Spring cleaning, a joint venture and ever-shrinking opportunities

Okay, so I know it’s technically summer but I’ve just carried out a little overdue spring cleaning and removed my self-published Riley Pope novelettes from Smashwords. They’ve languished there for years, the first four installments of what I imagined to be a twelve book series that I’d eventually self-publish in one volume.

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

The books were all free and had around 100 downloads each, give or take. The first iteration of Strange Weather (The Case of Walutahanga) made it to number 15 in the Amazon UK Urban Fantasy charts, which I was quite proud of at the time, although I’ve since discovered via other authors just how few purchases / downloads you really need to make it into those charts (a large group of willing friends and writing acquaintances really makes a difference it would seem).

At various intervals I’ve attempted to resurrect the series by penning book five, but could never get further than the first few pages. I’ve now admitted to myself that I’ve moved on in terms of what I want to write about and, to be brutally honest, have lost interest in the character and the story I was trying to tell. So goodbye for now, Riley Pope. Who knows, you may yet make a return one day.

In other news, I’m currently working on a project with my good friend John Commons, occasional TV star (Al Murray’s Happy Hour, Four in a Bed etc) and landlord of the Vic Bikers Pub in Coalville, Leicestershire.

Over the past few years John has been writing a memoir about his life prior to, and after taking over, the Victoria, and the first draft is now with me for editing and proofreading. I’ve never written or worked on non-fiction before so it’s quite the learning curve, particularly because we’ll be self-publishing so it won’t be going under the noses of a legal team! It’s certainly a challenge but has also been a joy to read. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in so many places but also touches on grief and loss. It’s going to take a while to get it shipshape but we’re both looking forwards to getting this as-yet-untitled memoir into the hands of the thousands of friends and patrons of this legendary venue.

As for the WIP, I’m still plodding on. I don’t mind admitting that the pandemic and the stress that has come with it has made writing (along with many other things) a challenge. I have, however, been making steady progress and I still enjoy writing it, so that must be a good sign. One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is this horribly divisive, virtue-signalling world we appear to be living in right now. For whatever reasons, be they well-intentioned or otherwise, certain organisations and individuals seem to be bending over backwards to accommodate particular groups to the detriment of everybody else.

Take for example the UK publishing market. There are hundreds of competitions and they used to be open to all, encouraging submissions from under-represented backgrounds, and rightly so. In the past year though, something has changed. I see ever more comps and opportunities stating they are only looking for submissions from (insert the current in-vogue label). It’s hard enough already to break into the market. Celebrities dominate, with contracts handed out to household names before they’ve even put fingertip to keyboard. Seeing them humble-brag all over Twitter when they’re not-yet-in-bookshops debut has just topped the bestseller list (Yvette Fielding comes to mind, although I still think she’s awesome) makes me want to take a massive sledgehammer to my laptop. It’s disheartening, but we trudge on, because we’re writers and this is what we do.

But it is getting harder. Harder to pick myself up mentally when what I see from the market I’m trying to break into, and the wider world in general, is that nobody wants to read a story from a person like me: white; straight; a nobody from nowhere. If they do, then why am I being excluded from writing competitions and agent’s query windows just because of the colour of my skin or my sexual preference (which is my damned business anyway)? And I’m not saying the publishing industry hasn’t shown prejudice in the past because I’m damn sure it has. It’s certainly unwelcoming to working-class writers, though some indie presses are working their bums off to change that (at least this is one ‘label’ I have going for me!)

In writing this, I hope I don’t come across as bitter or prejudiced, but undoubtedly there will be some who take my words and twist them to suit their own narrative: that is, unfortunately, the world we’re now living in – I may even be cancelled, and if I am then so be it. I just find it really, really sad that in our efforts to promote diversity, we’re actually marginalising whole groups of people, stifling their right to express an opinion and ultimately breeding resentment.

So anyway.

Allow me a moment to slink from my soap box…

BOOKS!

I’m currently reading my 40th and 41st books of the year, One for Sorrow – A book of old-fashioned lore by Chloe Rhodes, and Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist. I’ve never read any of Feist’s work before and am enjoying it so far, although inevitably it does feel quite dated. One for Sorrow is a fascinating book about the history behind some of our most popular sayings. Me and the better half were discussing what a clout was the other day, as in the traditional saying, ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’, and now I know – a clout in Old English was a piece of cloth, and evolved to mean a piece of clothing, so the saying means ‘keep your winter clothes on until June’. Which, in the maddeningly unpredictable UK climate, is a damned good piece of advice!

I’ve recently also finished The Ritual by Adam Nevill (well-written but I preferred the film – the book is like two novels in one and felt like it got a bit silly with the death metallers at the end. Why does everyone think us alternative lot are Satan-worshipping nut jobs???); A Stranger In Town by Kelley Armstong (not my favourite installment in the Rockton series, it felt a bit confused with all the various groups in play, but I still enjoyed it); and various non-fiction works of fortean interest covering ghosts, werewolves, strange ancient laws of England and the sinister side of old Nottingham.

Photo by Kevin Escate on Unsplash

So that’s all from me for now. On one final note, if you’ve read my previous blog post about Erwin Saunders and his quest to find the Morsu pixies, he’s recently posted some new videos! Enjoy!

Kate Lowe is a speculative fiction author from Leicestershire, UK. Her short fiction has won first place in two competitions & has appeared in various zines, magazines & anthologies. Her story The Wolf Runs in the Barley received an Honourable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Kate is a goth, a keen Fortean and a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers Rugby. Her favourite band is Fields of the Nephilim, she loves silver jewellery, hunting for antiques and is usually to be found with a book in her hand. You can find her online at www.kateloweauthor.co.uk

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