Drabble success, a competition longlist and 2020 part 2: what a f***ing year

It’s been a while since I last checked in so thought I’d drop a quick update. As per most people everywhere, 2020 has been a quiet, if not also horrendous, year. Whitby Goth Weekend was again cancelled so no holidays for us this year, the nightclubs and venues were closed so no Spellbound goth nights in Leicester or gigs at Nottingham Rock City, and the pubs, for the most part of this year, have been closed, so no weekends out with our friends at the local biker pub. All of this has made me realise how much I, and we as the human race, value social contact. Fingers crossed that next year will be a better one in so many ways for all of us.

On the writing front, I’ve had a horror drabble, ‘Mourning Son’, accepted for Black Hare Press’s upcoming anthology entitled 666. More news on that when available, but please click here to find out more about Black Hare Press and their brilliant range of speculative fiction. I also submitted a page of my novel-in-progress to Louise Walters Books Page 100 competition, and couldn’t believe it when While The City Sleeps made the longlist! I’ve since received the following feedback from Louise, which I hope she won’t mind me posting (as I’m over the moon with it and just have to share! Hurrah!)

“I really enjoyed your Page 100; it almost made the shortlist, so I hope that’s encouraging. There’s a no-nonsense crispness to your writing and story-telling. There’s humour here, and I think vulnerability? I warmed to the narrator and wondered quite a lot about her, curious about her story and what has led up to this page, and what may come after. There was a definite sense of a three-dimensional character here. not just words on a page. Great.”

Louise runs a fantastic indie press with a great selection of authors and books, so please have a gander at her website here and help support our brilliant indie presses in these difficult times. She is also running the Page 100 comp in June 2021, a good one to add to your writing calendar.

I’m currently reading my 69th book of the year, Sue Grafton’s P is for Peril, (which I’m technically re-reading, but it all still counts). I’ve also just finished Lee & Andrew Child’s The Sentinel, the latest Jack Reacher instalment, which was ace and is highly recommended. Non-fiction wise, I’ve recently finished David Wilcock’s eye-opening The Synchronicity Key and Deepak Chopra’s thought-provoking The Book of Secrets. I find myself very much in a spiritually-enquiring frame of mind at the moment, which is probably not surprising given the last eighteen months. Times are hard for all right now but I honestly feel that we’re on the home stretch. Stay safe, stay strong, be kind to yourself and others. We will get through this.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy festive season

Love and light

)o(

Dark drabbles, small victories and trying to stay positive

Kinsey Millhone meets a working-class Discovery of Witches, minus the unnecessary yoga.

If it sounds like the kind of book you might like to read, I’m with you. Please bear with me as I try to get it finished. Current working title: Conspiracy of Silence. This will undoubtedly change another two-dozen times before I’m ready to submit again, possibly in the year 2040 when we’ll all be driving hover cars, which is what we should have been doing in 2020, but instead we’re all learning how to wash our hands whilst singing Happy Birthday, twice.

In brighter news.

Success! In my last (quite a while ago) blog post, I mentioned I’d tried my hand at drabbles (drabble: a short work of fiction a hundred words in length, which are harder to write than they sound). I submitted two of them to Black Hare Press and one of them, ‘Cybele’s Lament’, has been selected for publication in their upcoming anthology Hate: Dark Drabbles, which is available now in paperback for £12.99 or in ebook format on 17th March for £2.99. You can order / pre-order by clicking the shiny links above 😉

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Dark tales of hate and revenge in bite-sized chunks!

This will represent my first and only published work of 2020, my output over the past twelve months having slowed considerably for reasons previously blogged about. I’m seeing this as my small victory and am going to attempt to write some more, alongside plodding on with the WIP.

Reading-wise, I’m on my sixteenth book of 2020. Stand-outs to mention are Blue Moon by Lee Child (a vintage Jack Reacher story and one of Child’s best), Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (one that will stay with you for a long time), Anthony Horowitz’s Daniel Hawthorne series (this man never writes a bad book) and No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill. I’m new to Adam Nevill, and the only reason I haven’t snapped up more of his work is that No One Gets Out Alive terrified me more than any horror I’ve ever seen or read and I’m not sure I need more terror at the moment given what’s going on in the world right now.

Stay safe everyone. Be kind.

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The sound of silence, goth weekend comedown, and please can I have a new shoulder?

 

“But my words, like silent raindrops, fell…”

As a scribbler who needs near-as-dammit total silence in order to write productively, I covet peace and quiet. As an introvert who values her ‘alone time’, this is doubly true.

However.

The vacuum I am currently enduring is excruciating. It’s been weeks since I subbed Chasing Shadows to a handful of carefully-selected agents and publishers, and whilst I’m aware that it’s going to take months for these crazily busy folks to get to my baby, it doesn’t make the waiting any easier. I’d like to say work has continued apace with the planning and plotting of the follow-up novel, but then I’d be lying (not through lack of ideas or enthusiasm, thankfully – other things, as you’ll see shortly, have just gotten in the way). I have written 3/4 of an Infernal Kindred short story that takes place between the first and second novels, though, and I’ve already found a market to sub this to (deadline of December so I’d better hurry up).

Speaking of subbing stories, if you haven’t already seen the update, I have a reprint of ‘A Dish Best Served Cold’ in the Halloween edition of The Siren’s Call, which you can download for free by clicking on the link. If ever you’ve fantasised about murdering a work colleague, then this may be for you. As for me, I couldn’t possibly comment 😉

Update on The Riley Pope Case Files – a friend asked me recently when no.5 was coming out, and the answer is… when I’ve written it. I know, I know, get your finger out, Lowe! The good news is that the title and the cover are pretty much sorted (but yet to be finalised), so here’s a sneaky preview:

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The story will see Riley trying to solve her latest case whilst dealing (or not, as is the case with Miss Pope) with the emotional fallout from Stepacyk’s assault in Blue Ben. I can’t promise a release date yet but I will certainly get to work on this before the end of 2018, failing body and other distractions allowing, of course.

The particular part of my failing body I speak of is my shoulder, which I damaged whilst attempting to perform some ridiculous backwards crab manoeuvre (and they say exercise is good for you) about two years ago. Something substantial tore, and when the pain and burning in my shoulder eventually subsided, the agony and limited movement in my neck began. After 6 weeks of perseverance, I accepted it wasn’t getting better on its own and went to see the doctor, who told me to give it four weeks (I had already allowed for six, don’t forget) and – I kid you not – to ‘Google some neck exercises’.

As you can imagine I was not particularly impressed with this advice and so I spent some of my meagre savings on a course of chiropractic therapy which involved stretching, massage and manipulation and, after about a month, it was a whole lot better.

But then it got slowly but progressively worse again, to the point that I can no longer look to my left without turning my entire body. I’m in constant pain, it’s impossible to get a decent night’s sleep and the only exercise I can do without wanting to cry is moderately-paced walking. Sitting at a computer all day only makes it worse, except that is what I do to pay the bills, so I have no choice in the matter. Luckily I can work on plotting the next novel (which goes by the working title of Telling Secrets) via my corkboard / sticky note system, but I can’t avoid the laptop completely. Needless to say, productivity, both writing- and reading-wise, has dropped. An NHS physiotherapy self-referral appointment is pending. They told me the waiting list was four weeks. After seven weeks of nothing I rang to politely enquire if they’d forgotten me, only to be told I was two weeks away from the top of the list. That was three weeks ago. I’d wearily shake my head if my neck would allow it.

The other distraction from writing was our recent jaunt to Whitby for the goth weekend. We arrived on a sunny Thursday and left on an equally clement Monday, and the weather inbetween was…

You remember that scene from Mary Poppins where all the other nannies are swept up and blown down the street? Well it was something like that, but with rotund men in top hats and women in varying degrees of outlandish Victorian-esque garb being blown into the Esk (the actual goths were in the pubs out of the way of it).

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This was me and the windswept better half after a particularly perilous journey from the Metropole to our cottage after attending another outstanding Marquis Masquerade on Friday night:

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Saturday evening brought the very sad news of the Leicester City helicopter tragedy. It was also the first of two Fields of the Nephilim gigs we would be attending that week, so my usual joy at witnessing my heroes play live was tinged with sadness at the loss of Khun Vichai, who made the impossible dream come true. To be amongst that insane crowd on Victoria Park is an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime.

Sunday brought slightly better weather, and a shopping splurge (occult-esque earrings, Poison of Dracula plum brandy, a Nosferatu glass chopping board – because who doesn’t need one of those babies?), and then it was off to a Joy Division tribute, followed by a night of goth classics, to which we danced our little socks off.

And then we came home, and have spent the days since mourning how quickly it all went whilst chopping things on Nosferatu’s face.

Thanks to the shoulder / neck thing, I haven’t been reading as much as usual, and so my Goodreads challenge of sixty books for 2018 is starting to look somewhat unachievable. I’ve recently finished M.R. James’ collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary though, which you can download for free from Project Gutenberg, and I both thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Nobody tells a horror yarn quite like M.R. James! Currently on my ‘to be read’ pile is Brief Cases by Jim Butcher (which I’m devouring as quickly as my stupid neck will allow – man, I’ve missed Harry Dresden!), and Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Past Tense (my first author-signed book!).

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So that’s all for now folks. Have a great weekend. I’ll leave you with a video from (in my humble opinion) the best damned goth band of all time, Fields of the Nephilim. Take it away, Carl McCoy…

Halloween reprint news, pantsers v plotters, and why you can’t be a writer if you don’t bloody love it

Hello everyone and Happy Gothtober!

It’s only 17 more sleeps (I’m not counting, honest) until me and the better half make our biannual trek up to Whitby for the goth weekend, and I’m ever so a little bit excited, not least because my all-time-favourite band Fields of the Nephilim are playing, and also because I get to stay in a cottage with THIS view:

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If you follow me at all on Twitter or Facebook, you might have noticed THIS post:

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Yes, I have finally done it. After slogging away at the never-ending WIP and finally deciding that the industry just doesn’t want vampire novels at the moment, I returned to a previous project, finished it, redrafted it, edited it, proofread it, polished it to within an inch of its life, and now it is sitting in the inboxes of five agents / publishers awaiting their verdict.

I cannot describe to you how amazing it feels to finally be working on a new project. Not one I’ve rewritten umpteen times, not one I started to write years ago and put to one side, but a BRAND NEW NOVEL!

I’m taking a risk, since it’s the second in the series to the first, and if I can’t find an agent / publisher for that one then I don’t really know where that leaves me. On the other hand, I believe in my characters and the world I’ve built for them and I want to keep on telling their stories, so I’m just going to carry on regardless and hope that somebody out there believes in them too.

Novelists tend to be pantsers or plotters, and some of us occupy the space inbetween. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants: they don’t have a structured plot before they start, just a vague idea of characters and possibly a germ of an idea and they run with it and see where it takes them. Plotters are their opposites: they carry out meticulous planning beforehand, make up character sheets, map out story arcs, major and minor plotlines, and know before they even write a word of the MS what will happen in every chapter, and possibly every scene.

I used to be a pantser (hence the many manuscripts filling up my hard drive). Chasing Shadows, the aforementioned submitted novel, was written as part of a writing course, so there was some element of planning involved and that’s probably how I made it to the end with all (I hope) of the necessary ingredients in place.

I don’t consider the time I’ve spent pantsing through novels as wasted. Aside from courses and how-to books, and reading both widely and incessantly, I sincerely believe that the best way to learn how to write well is to just sit down and do it. Write badly. Write angry. Write tired. Write rubbish. Write stuff that the world will never see. But eventually, through practice and a lot of trial and error and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of words, your writer’s voice WILL start to emerge. You’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t, the things that you’re good at and those that you need to pay a little more attention to. You might, like me, discover plotting doesn’t stifle creativity (like I thought it might) but actually makes the writing process a helluva a lot easier.

My Scrivener project for this second novel currently has character sketches for all major and minor characters, separate location descriptions for all the main places in the novel, a list of major and minor plotlines with notes on how they develop and are resolved, and I’ve broken down the novel into chapters and the chapters into scenes. If this all sounds terribly tedious and boring, let me assure you that I’m having the time of my life with it. Seriously! I’ve never been able to keep all the strands of a novel in my head, but doing it this way gives me a visual map to work to, and knowing I have all the necessary nuts, bolts and pulleys in place means I can just get on and do the best bit, which is write it.

The opening scenes for the third novel are already in place (and a Scrivener project is going for that too), along with several plots for short stories and novellas to compliment the series. Now I just need to win the lottery so I can give up the day job and get it all written.

In others news, the latest anthology from Smoking Pen Press A Kiss and a Promise, is available now from Amazon. Featuring my story ‘Made to be Broken’, a paranormal romance about a vampire hunter’s quest to fulfil a family legacy, it’s available both in paperback format and as an ebook download, and you can find them both here. (Don’t forget to leave a review! They’re an author’s bread and butter!)

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I also received some great news from Sirens Call Publications last week. My short story ‘A Dish Best Served Cold’, originally published in 2011 by Spikethecat Ltd, will be included in the Halloween edition of the Siren’s Call ezine. Purveyors of horror and dark fiction, their bi-monthly zines contain short fiction, flash fiction and poetry and are completely free to download and enjoy. The link will be added to my Short Fiction page as soon as it’s available.

So that’s all for now folks. I’m off to check my emails for the 104th time today.

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