2021: The Year of Delicate Shells

There’s a beach, close to where I grew up, that stretches for miles. I like it best out of season, in rough weather, when there’s nobody else upon it and the breakers are tall and ferocious, the sand swirling. All of these droplets and specks, grains and water, moving: too many to ever count. At the far end, the expanse narrows and there is a place sheltered by the rocks, where the best shells are found. These are often intact, and surprising in their colours. They are fragile, but they made it across the sea.


The great big whirling beach of my writing year has been a blast. Here’s a look back at what I got up to.

My novel Skyward Inn has dominated the year for me, and I have loved seeing its bright cover out in the world. It’s very strange to think I wrote that story of communication, separation and a really horrible virus before the pandemic kicked off. Apart from that slightly uncomfortable feeling of prescience, I’ve enjoyed talking about the book to interviewers and reviewers, and a high point of the year has to be my appearance at Second Life Book Club as a giant skull-headed flower.

The US version of The Loosening Skin, complete with an additional short story that adds to the lives of some of the characters in that novel, was published early in the year.

The Italian translation of The Loosening Skin (La Muta) from Carbonio Editore has been doing well, and has led to some wonderful reviews and feedback.

The Spanish translation of The Beauty (La Belleza) from Dilatando Mendes is just a beautiful book to look at, including illustrations and a guide at the back to the things that inspired me in the first place. It’s always wonderful to find my books travelling, and continuing to reach people. Go books! Keep braving the seas.


It’s been a strong year for my short stories. From the Neck Up, my collection, was published in September and I felt it brought together the best of what I can do in that format. It looks very handsome on my shelf of Titan books, too.

I had short stories published in other places:

More Sea Creatures to See, a tale of quiet world domination and theme parks, made an appearance in Shoreline of Infinity.

I wrote a piece of flash fiction called Toxic (Jekyll and Hyde type fun) for The Tiny Bookcase podcast.

Soapstone is a dark short story about death and gaming, and it was published in Beyond the Veil, a great anthology edited by Mark Morris and published by Flame Tree Press.

The anthology Lore and Disorder had a great theme – mutated British folklore. I wrote The Complex, Dark for it. It’s about swamps and cable cars.

Editor Dan Coxon asked for speculative stories about mental health for his anthology with Unsung Stories, Out of the Darkness. I wrote a piece called The Chorus for it. I’m quite proud of that one, and it’s in very good company. The range of responses to the challenge make for fascinating reading.

A Taste for Paste was a quick dip into bizarre horror for the anthology, They’re Out to Get You! This will be a series of horror tales evoking pulp stories, and volume one features animals and insects that have gone baaaaaaaad.

And, at the end of the year, Parsec issue 2 featured a Christmas short story of mine. Lovers on the Yuleton Lip is a tale of a very high cliff with something very interesting at the bottom of it.


A few bits and pieces of non-fiction emerged, starting with the US publication (and audio version) of The Secret Life of Fungi. It made the Washington Post gift guide this Christmas! Amazing.

I wrote about the business of putting together a short story collection for Tor Nightfire.

SciFiNow let me write about first contact novels and films, including Childhood’s End and Mars Attacks!

And there was a double serving of Climbing Stories in the latest edition of Interzone magazine.


In terms of new projects, I didn’t push hard in 2021. Different directions have been calling to me. I ended up writing a very odd, short experimental novel that I really don’t know what to do with, and I started a collaborative project with another writer that I very much admire. Recently I’ve begun work on a new themed collection of speculative short stories, and I’m enjoying writing them and seeing where they take me. (Shocking spoiler: the theme isn’t plants or fungi…)


Onwards to 2022. The paperback release of Skyward Inn is coming up, along with new stories of mine in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, and other places. One of my short stories from From the Neck Up will be making an appearance as a podcast, too, so there’s lots of interesting things lined up. As ever, I’ll put links up on the blog as I go along. In the meantime, have a wonderful end of year. I hope you’ve found some delicate shells along the way. It’s a wonder how they emerge, intact, from the roughest of seas, but a few always do.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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