2019: The Year of Intensive Nesting

This time last year I wrote a blog post about how I’d not managed to get as much writing done as I would have liked, and how I had plans to write something big and serious throughout 2019. So I’m pleased to say, in this review of the year, that I did that. I wrote a new novel that was a stretch and an obsession for a while, and that took up most of the year. I nested in my local cafe, layering up my pieces of paper with the crumbs of toasted teacakes, and the staff took it very graciously, and urged me on. I worked out that it’s the sixteenth book I’ve written. That’s a lot of nesting. I wonder why I do it? Well, that’s a question I probably don’t want to ever answer, since I enjoy the process far too much to start poking around with my motivations.

Anyway, this is my breakdown of what got published in 2019. Quick! Before it ends…

Skein Island! Re-released into the wild by Titan Books with an eerie, arresting cover and an additional novelette called The Cold Smoke Declaration. I had some great reviews for this one, and a real highlight was the instagram tour, organised by Titan, in which so many readers took photos of the book in different locations and settings. I was quite pleased with my own effort, too, making the most of my beautiful Virginia Creeper in its autumn flush:

 

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My short story year started with a visit to Story’s Shallow Creek in April 2019. The concept behind the anthology was a good one: given a character and a location in one particularly creepy town, could the authors create a cohesive vision of this nightmarish place? The collection is unnervingly good at it. My story, The Alteration, focused on the lone nurse in the asylum on the outskirts of town. Stories within stories.

Wrapped followed close behind it. Wrapped can be found in the first anthology from a really interesting new press: Boudicca. It’s an honour to be amongst the other writers in the collection Disturbing the Beast, and I wish it would find more readers. My tale of a tomb excavation in Egypt was my first Mummy story. It was great fun to write, while incorporating some elements that I’m passionate about.

Once Upon a Parsec is a NewCon Press anthology that I was delighted to be asked to be a part of. Write an alien fairy tale, they said. That’s a lot to think about. In the end I came up with The Tiny Traveller, which is possibly one of the strangest stories I’ve ever written. The joy here was in then reading the other responses to the same prompt by some amazing writers. What are aliens? And what the heck are fairy tales? Jamming them together provides some unexpected answers.

Calque Press published An Invite to Eternity, a collection of eco-themed horror-fantasy stories containing urgent messages of real importance. My story Star in the Spire was inspired by a walk I took around the local West Sussex hills, with only the scarecrows for company. I highly recommend reading the whole book to get a sense of the very best of modern environmental writing.

October saw the release of The Forgotten and the Fantastical 5: an ongoing fantasy anthology series from Mother’s Milk Books, which include beautiful illustrations for each story. My story Chantress is all about singing songs and eating marshmallows and throwing rocks and trying to be a real person beyond the role you’ve been given, which you wear like a suit of armour and you don’t quite believe in any more.

And at the end of the year Bars of Light got published in Eibonvale’s Once and Future Moon, which I’ve yet to read, but I’m really looking forward to. Stories about the moon: past, present and future. Did you know that it was once a common belief that after killing Abel, Cain was imprisoned on the moon? Nope, I didn’t either, until I started researching for this anthology and came across an idea that I had to write about. I used to hate research but I’m getting to quite like it now.

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Throughout 2019 I wrote non-fiction for Interzone, churning out odd content about books and reading and swimming pools and robots and news and 1970s conspiracy thrillers and The Gruffalo. Wait – maybe the one about The Gruffalo will be out in January 2020 instead.

So here comes 2020. More nesting? Probably. I have an idea in mind for a new thing and I can’t resist those toasted teacakes. 2020 will also see the release of quite a few things:

  • The US release of The Loosening Skin is due in the middle of 2020, and a new novelette will accompany that, as is the fashion with my Titan releases. The cover for that is stunning, by the way; scroll down a bit and you can probably see it.
  • Titan will also publish a short story collection of mine at the end of 2020. We’re just putting together the contents list now.
  • Greensmith, my new science fiction novel, will be published by Unsung Stories in May 2020. I’m hoping to reveal the cover for that in the new year. Excited and nervous about this one already.
  • New short stories will be forthcoming in a number of places, none of which I’m allowed to tell you about yet.

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It was an amazing writing year. There was even a moment when I had to leave the safety of the nest behind and venture out into the real world to attend the Arthur C Clarke awards, when The Loosening Skin made the shortlist. I still can’t believe I get to type that sentence.

Hope everyone finds a few days of peace over the next couple of weeks. I’m not listing my favourite reads of 2019 yet because it’s not over, and this is peak reading time for me. I’d hate to miss something off just because I didn’t get around to it until the 26th December. Yes, I am hoping to receive some books for Christmas, and then spend the time with my head stuck in them, feathers ruffled up, snug and warm, with a box of biscuits close by. More nesting: this time in sublime literary relaxation. Perfect. Thanks for reading the blogs and the books and the stories: everyone’s. Not just mine. See you in 2020.

 

 

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