Trick or Treat??
Welcome to my first of what I hope (and you might not!) will be a long newsletter relationship!
Why A Newsletter and Why Now?
It’s hard to be an author nowadays. Social media is a lot of work, and the loss of a certain hellscape—where so many of us built a network—means we've been shifting to several other new platforms, rebuilding our networks, feeling sort of like a long-lost cardigan in a beat-up cardboard box behind the counter in an abandoned shop in a closed-down mall. (too dramatic?)
Author newsletters remind me of the olden days of LiveJournal, where we could talk about things in more than 130 characters, really dig into thoughts, concerns, ideas. The weeks churn by and suddenly it’s the end of the year and you wonder what you’ve done. I can open up my schedule book/day planner and look at the deadlines I had and the appointments I made, but I can’t look at it and remember what was really going on, what I was distracted by or cooking in my back brain. A newsletter gives me a chance to keep a journal of sorts that I will actually write in (because I’m utter shit at keeping a real journal).
Also, it’s Halloween today, and I thought it would be nifty to start it off on one of the coolest holidays ever.
Things I'm Working On
Spec Fic for Newbies Volume 2 is coming along. Getting started on it was slow going mainly because of so many other things flying around in my work-life right now. BUT I recently finished a section on, of all things, Animals that Attack! You wouldn’t believe the weird overlap of men’s pulpy adventure magazines of the 1940s-1970s, the rise of eco-awareness from the 1960s-1980s, and the explosion of popularity of pulpy horror paperbacks in the 1970s that all led to gory tales of animals attacking hapless, unaware humans. It was delightful to write! Although now I am imagining a group of murderous penguins. A horde? A flock? A school? … I looked it up and it’s a WADDLE on land and a RAFT on water! Could that be more CHARMINGLY SILLY?!
As soon as I finished that section, I opened up a new file to start the Enchanted Clothing section, which is making me super happy because I get to talk about sumptuary laws and couture. What’s not to love?
Because my brain works overtime, I'm also busy at work creating new content (yes, I know, that word!) for the Underhill Academy for SFF Writers, which I run with fellow author and ex-academic Trip Galey. I’ve also got a novella in the works. I’ve never written a novella before, so I thought I’d try the form out. This one is about pigments and sacrifice (oh, and a dragon!), inspired by a line I read in the “blue” chapter of the book Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. Info I come across in non-fiction often leads to story ideas. I also have a novel to finish that I have been trying to finish for … oh … too many years now.
In a few days, a friend is taking me on a writing retreat (I will be writing, she will be reading). The plan is to stay in jammies in a vacation cottage somewhere on the coast of East Anglia, drink lots of hot chocolate, eat too many bowls of popcorn, finish the novella and, if I am feeling jazzed, the novel. Cross your fingers!
Things Being Published Soon
My short story “Litter” will be published in Wyldblood magazine in early 2024. This one is about a group of boys who know very little about the “real world” and find themselves adrift in an apocalyptic setting who are "found" by a mysterious young woman and a pack of dogs. It’s a sort of reprint because I self-published it with another titled “Hill Witch” (thematically linked because of the consequences of accepting help from bad actors) around six years ago so that I could go through the process and then teach my writing and publishing students how it worked. So, very few people have read it. I'd like to find a new home for “Hill Witch”, too, which someone at a writing workshop was offended by and offered no feedback on for moral reasons! Which means, of course, that I love the story even more. It’s diabolical and twisted.
What I'm Currently Distracted By
I just finished bingeing the new TV series of Interview with the Vampire and MY GOD BUT IT WAS FABULOUS! The end had me in goosebumps and nearly in tears because, though I love the 1994 film for its ridiculous campiness (I can go on for days about the casting of hetero heartthrobs that totally undermined the homoeroticism of Rice’s books), this series hit that frisson that the books did for me when I read them in my teens and twenties. I’ve never written a vampire story, which is odd considering I wrote critically on vampire narratives while at university. This show, though: it hits on the drag of immortality in a new way because while living forever will get lonely, can you imagine being in a bad marriage until the end of time? Ugh.
I recently read Unquiet by E. Saxey, All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes, and The Others of Edenwell by Verity Holloway because on Wednesday 25 October at the Cambridge Waterstones I led an "in conversation" with this trio of horror authors. The books all drip with gothic-y weirdness and, interestingly, are all set within the 30 years from 1890-1920. It’s amazing how quickly an hour of chatting with authors goes by.
Before the Cambridge event, I did a one-day gig with the SAW Trust (science, writing, art), teaching kids about microbes! I led the writing part, getting the 10 and 11-year olds to write poetry after they spent time learning about and viewing microbes as well as leaf-cutter ants. It was epic! Kids that age are clever and curious and kinda bananas. I had a lot of fun but my god what I exhausted when it was over. I taught university for years, and a 2-hour class was tiring enough. Teaching kids would send me down the bottle every night!
And on that scary note, let me close by saying thanks for signing up to read about my magpie brain. Share with friends, and I'll see you soon!