Winter 2020 Update – Reasons To Be Cheerful, New Short Fiction, And What’s a Chapbook?

In my July update I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst, and here we are in another year, in another national UK lockdown, with a very unprecedented Christmas behind us.

If I distilled anything palatable from the bitter brew of 2020, it was to be actively grateful – not in a wishy washy, Pinterest board way, but to frequently and actively list out on a piece of paper all the reasons to be cheerful whenever the new normal threatened to overwhelm. We are safe, we are fortunate that we can work from home, we continue healthy, we have a good broadband and Wi-Fi connection so we can connect to friends and family online, as well as buy most of what we need in the same way. We did manage to get out and about for some hiking trips in between lockdowns (pic above is from a brief trip to the Lake District in September), but I’m now doing my part as a stay-safe couch potato.

In reciting my gratitude list, I did have some writing success in 2020; my flash fiction output dwindled, but I have pushed ahead with my two novels-in-progress, and I had my longest piece of fiction published to date!

Shadows Under Leamouth is a 5,000 word short story, and my homage to HP Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innmsouth. The story is based in modern day East London, and it’s my tongue in cheek contribution to the Cthulhu Mythos, although it hits some pretty horrific notes. This is also my first piece of fiction to be published in a chapbook, by Rainfall Books, a British fantasy, horror and Sci-Fi publisher specializing in modern works inspired by the writing of Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.

I didn’t know too much about chapbooks; Book Riot defines them as teeny books containing ballads, poems, tales, or tracts. Often published in softback or even material format, they are usually printed in limited runs and often become collector’s items.

Rainfall’s chapbook arm has published 150 chapbooks over the past four years and I’m very proud to be published in their Lovecraft’s Disciples series (Issue 42). Reproduced below is the cover of this issue, a wonderfully gruesome image that evokes the very best of my teen favourite, the awesome cult horror anthology series, the Pan Books of Horror Stories.

Quick shout out to a wonderful blog I found that gives fantastic synopses for each volume of the Pan Series if you’re unfamiliar; Pandaemonian – Scribbles on the Pan Book of Horror Stories Collection. I even contacted the author of my all time favourite Pan horror story, and was surprised not only with the author’s youth, but also his perfectly normal and friendly reply, which contrasted strongly with his frankly disgusting, amazing tale!

Lovecraft’s Disciples, issue 42

If you fancy a read you can buy the chapbook direct from Rainfall’s Chapbook site; let me know if you have any problems and I’ll link you up.

When the latest UK lockdown was announced (currently slated to last until the end of March) I sank briefly into a slough of despond; it’s our thirtieth wedding anniversary this year and I had hopes and plans for a grand tour to one of our bucket list destinations. That’s probably fallen by the wayside, but the good news is that the UK is rolling out its vaccine programme. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst is the standard project management mantra, and I do live by that creed, but I try to incorporate the possibility of pleasant surprises, deeper connections, and of course, having more time to revisit all of the visceral horror fiction that caught me in its rotting, reeking talons so many years ago. Reasons to be cheerful – the awful things I read and write about remind me that real life isn’t actually that bad, and reconfirm ultimately our humanity, and our choices. Happy New Year!

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