2021 In Review

2021 has been a strange old year, but I’ve still managed to get a few stories out there. Below is a quick overview of what I’ve been up to writing wise.

In April my debut short story collection came out from Undertow Publications. To Drown in Dark Water contained 26 stories in total with six of them previously unpublished. The stunning cover art is by Stefan Koidl who is eligible for Best Artist, as is Vince Haig who is responsible for the fantastic design. Michael Kelly is eligible in Best Editor categories and definitely deserving of all the nominations.

To the stories!

Dancing Sober in the Dust concerns a researcher becoming obsessed with the grotesque costumes of Weimar Republic era dancers. Dancing Sober was inspired by the research for this Daily Grail article I wrote. “Dances of Vice, Horror and Ecstasy: Suspiria and Dance as a Magical Act in Weimar Germany

Atelier is set in Munich during the first Der Blaue Reiter art exhibition, where a young artist at the Munich Künstlerinnen-Verein confides in a stranger about her latest commission.

Grenzen sees an American soldier drive his family along the motorway that runs through East Germany between West Germany and West Berlin. In such a liminal place, can he get through without attracting the attention of the Stasi?

Beneath the Forest’s Wilting Leaves is a story about a father and son discovering an abandoned stick built lean-to in the woods. After they add to the construction they return to find someone else is also continuing to build the structure.

Winter Home is a seasonal ritual to welcome in the second half of the year. For the first time Lena is taking part in the celebrations. Will she be overwhelmed by her responsibilities, or will she discover something much darker at the heart of the festival?

In Under the Banner of the Black Stamen the dead are carried on converted car ferries across The Channel to the archipelago they are accompanied by The Psychopomps. Sabine has made the journey many times, glimpsing her old home through the mist, but this time something doesn’t feel right.

The year started with the publication of Death Wears a Crown of Baling Twine appearing in Not One of Us #65, a story set in a furrowed field where the narrator has to stay ahead of Death, while being ‘helped’ by the various mythic creatures that live amongst the crop.

In April I had a second story in Not One of Us. How to describe A Seep of Cats? A Seep of Cats is inspired by the song Jolene, and is about love, witchcraft and the gaps in the world. Also cats.

DENDROCHROMATIC DATA RECOVERY REPORT 45-274 was published in Analog: Science and Fact May/June 2021. In a future where tree rings are used to store data, Dendrochromatic is a story told as a server crash report. While Dendrochromatic can be read as is, part of the text is in hexadecimal code, and converting that adds a very different dimension to the story. Here’s a link to a useful online hexadecimal to text converter

Nightscript 7 came out in October, and includes Clipped Wings by me, a story about a young son, his parents, and snow angels.

In December I have three stories coming out.

‘To Rectify in Silver’ appears in the December issue of Nightmare Magazine. This is my first original story in Nightmare, and is a story about archaeology, aerial photography, and the devastating effect of grief.

Tuppence a Bag will be published in They’re Out To Get You: Volume One Animals and Insects, edited by Johnny Mains. They’re Out To Get You looks back at the pulp animal horror of the seventies and eighties (Think Rats and Slugs), and Tuppence a Bag is an archaeology story that goes in an unexpected direction.

Chit Chit is due out in Chilling Crime Short Stories from Flame Tree Press. Chit Chit is a little bit supernatural, a little bit crime story and a little bit folk horror. All the good stuff.

In other news I had my first story appear in translation. Call Out was published as We­zwa­nie in the Polish Magazine Nowa Fantastyka.

Away from fiction I wrote a short piece about grief in horror which you can read on this very blog here.

This year I’ve also worked as the script editor on Audio Universe Tour of the Solar System, a planetarium show for people who are vision impaired. More details when I can share.

I’ve also been working on a commission with sound artist Eric Holm for Les Ensembles 2.2 as part of In The Field. Set in, Lasauvage, Luxembourg, the commission is a sound installation played on smartphones, and forms part of the wider Esch, Capital of Culture 2022.

Eligibility Post 2020

Related Work

The work I’m most proud of in 2020 is my article for Tor.com about portrayals of homelessness in Science Fiction and Fantasy which I think will be eligible for Related Work nominations.

I hope you can find time to read the piece as it’s a topic close to my heart and a people experiencing homelessness are part of society often overlooked.

www.tor.com/2020/04/15/confronting-the-default-portraying-homelessness-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy/

Short Stories

2020 has been a good year for new short stories with seven published since January.

These are;

Old Fashioned in Lackington’s #21

Old Fashioned is a story about cocktails and cosmic horror. Imagine The Repairer of Reputations with added Orange Bitters and you’re on the right track.

Children of the Rotting Straw in Weird Horror #1

Children of the Rotting Straw was inspired by the image of the sky obscured by wicker hurdles, and grew from there into some strange Jack and the Beanstalk, woollen, scarecrow populated hybrid horror story.

No Sun to Guide the Way upcoming in Speculative City

Schwabylon in Munich no longer exists. With it’s seventies sunburst frontage, Yellow Submarine themed club, and 600,000 litre water tank containing 30 sharks it seems more like something from a Bond villain’s fever dream. Schwabylon was the inspiration for my weird fiction story No Sun to Guide the Way.

Tides Breathe When Words Are Spoken in Not One of Us #63

Tides Breath When Words Are Spoken grew out of work I did for an exhibition in Munich. The story is based around the idea of a lunar language expressed through geology.

On a Bed of Flag Leaves at Unsung Stories

Where I grew up in Harrogate the disused railway track was known as The Airy Mountains (or sometimes The Hairy Mountains) so William Allingham’s poem The Fairies has a special place in my heart. Now I’m a parent, the devastating loss hidden in verse four really resonates with me, and was the inspiration for On a Bed of Flag Leaves.

Green Grows the Grief in Shadows & Tall Trees 8

Grief features a lot in my work, and Green Grows the Grief is one of the stories where I explore loss and how we mourn. The inspiration for the setting was a compendium of abandoned greenhouses put together by Messy Nessy Chic.

The Fugue of Winter in Glass & Gardens: Solarpunk Winters

The Fugue of Winter brought together some technical ideas I put together for a project pitch. These included taking inspiration from penguins for architectural approaches to regulate building temperature. I don’t often write upbeat stories. I wanted to write a story which was about discovering and valuing the beauty of music, enough to risk everything to preserve it.

2018 My Year in Fiction

This is my first time writing an eligibility post, so I hope this covers all bases.

2018 has been a good year, with nine stories published, my first pro sales, as well as my collaboration of flash fiction and art with Hazel Ang.

Here you’ll find stories about flowers, knitting, art, and stone circles. All those seem like pleasant ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, but not so much in these stories.

Most are unsettling, some are visceral, and at least one prompted a Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews to say that it ‘creeped me right the fuck out.’ (Sorry Charles!)

I hope if you can find a moment to have a read you find something here you enjoy. 

 

Streuobstwiese

Shimmer Magazine #46

3100 words

Kate’s been out on the roof again. She’s drawn her finger through salt the color of wood ash, the sigils barely holding together on the terracotta slope of the tiles. The gutters are clogged with yellow fat, and dead hares whose eyes are gilded in gold leaf. Across the valley a field of barley whitens with mold and blight.

Streuobstwiese appears in issue 46 that can be bought via the Shimmer website, and will be online to read for free from 4th December.

 

“This is a rather chilling story about Rachel, a woman living on an orchard outside of town with Kate, whose story is perhaps a bit unclear but who definitely has powers. Magic that is dark and dangerous and snares those unwary who get too close to the house. Magic that punishes any who trespass, and punishes Rachel as well for all the small things that Rachel feels. Their relationship is interesting and a little difficult for me to piece together, weaving with that of an artist who is gone now but not before leaving his mark. It’s a story heavy with grief and with fear mixed with love. Rachel is trapped, both by Kate’s powers but also by her own affections. She doesn’t want to leave, but the further the story goes, the more she’s pushed toward a drastic choice.”

(Review by Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews)

Verwelktag

Lackington’s Gothics Issue

3800 words

Sunflower heads drooped as if embarrassed to be so tall. Stalks like sharkskin. Then dahlias. Globes of dead planets reborn in nested florets. She cupped one after another in her hands. Let them settle in her palms. Lowered her face and allowed the fragrance to rise into her. Lost to herself she wandered from row to row to row. Deeper into the centre, far from the road, to the middle of the small field, she spotted something in the worn dirt and her breath caught in her throat.

Sunlight reflected off the metal staples holding the limbs in place, fur flayed back to show yellowed bones. The chest cavity was empty of organs, instead stuffed with petals and seedheads.

 

“And with this story the issue goes full on into horror, with a disturbing take on the trope of people visiting a foreign town and finding themselves on the receiving end of some violent local customs. The follows Angela and her husband Joe as they visit a small German town. One that has some unique plant-based festivals. The piece opens with a trespass, with Angela and Tom not respecting the local laws, and ends with, well, that would be telling. It’s a thrilling read, tense and horrifying, though content warnings ahoy because this story does linger on some rather graphic violence and imagery. And it’s a very visceral and intense take on this horror trope, leaning on the Gothic landscape and darkness, the isolation that comes when you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language, where you’re vulnerable because you’re facing an organized, united threat.”

(Review by Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews)

Verwelktag is Online to read for free at Lackington’s

 

The Jaws of Ouroboros

The Fiends in the Furrows anthology

5015 words

“Four other teams around the edge, and one in the fox covert on the far side of the stone circle,” he said, not bothering to quieten his voice. Over the sound of sandstone grinding against sandstone we barely heard each other speak.

“Are you going for all of them?” I asked, leaning close.

He grinned, rubbing his face to smudge more dirt across his skin, and pulled out the machete from inside his jacket.

“Every single one.”

The Jaws of Ouroboros appears in the anthology The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror, available from Nosetouch Press.

 

White Lips

/Asymmetry

2050 words

We all had different names for the woman who lived in next door’s garden. My parents called her Mrs Poppyseed, though I never knew if this was what she was called, by marriage or by birth. My sister, older than me by two full years, called her Widow Weeds for the way long hair hung lank down her face, whether the sky was heavy with rain or crackling with sunlight.

Me? I named her White Lips for the way she scrunched her mouth shut until tiny cracks crazed her cheeks.

White Lips is available to read for free at the /Asymmetry website

 

Dirt Upon My Skin

Not One of Us

2915 words

Sally noticed Campbell had gone, and the surveying pole fell from her cramped grip to smash beyond repair upon the kerb. Moments earlier they had been alone together in the disowned housing estate. Now Campbell’s hi-vis jacket was not in sight. Sally and the tripod-legged Level stood at opposite ends of the deserted street.

Dirt Upon My Skin appears in Not One of Us: Animal Days II

 

The Kromlau Gambit

Third Flatiron Anthologies

3000 words

The room was too hot and too small, and the black haired man was coming up fast on the fly agaric he’d ingested in preparation for the meeting. Sand flies crawled across his scalp and over his eyebrows. He let them find the warmth of his mouth, dedicating each small death to a different perished god. Blood sacrifices were still blood sacrifices, no matter how small.

The Kromlau Gambit appears in Third Flatiron Anthology: Galileo’s Theme Park

 

Split Chain Stitch

Mystery Weekly Magazine

2975 words

To cast on make sure you have a slip knot on the left hand needle. Place the point of the right hand needle into the slip knot and make a knit stitch. Whatever you do, do not slip it off the left.

Rachael found small towns had a gravity to them like some dense star lay hidden under the marketplace cobbles. Held people in place. Held time in place. She passed through like a comet. There was a skill to prizing herself away from the weight of these little communities. For now though she needed to collapse into the centre and let it consume her. Burn everything else away. She opened the café door, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

Six women sat around on comfy chairs, each headrest protected by a fine lace antimacassar. The only light came from old lamps balanced on rustic wooden shelves, a small constellation of spotlights above the café’s kitchen and single mobile phone. Under the low hum of conversation the sound of needles sounded like claws clattering on tiles.

Split Chain Stitch appears in Mystery Weekly Magazine November 2018 and is available to purchase from the website.

Our Lady of the Tarpaulin

Not One of Us

1285 words

From the balcony we heard sirens announcing the boat’s arrival. Deep undulating notes echoing against worn stonework lining the river.

The Goddess was toward the stern, sitting or crouching. It was hard to tell. She was wrapped in green tarpaulins, held in place by salt stained ratchet straps.

Our Lady of the Tarpaulin appeared in Not One of Us #60 and is available to purchase via the website.

 

Disruption

BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS

5945 words

Day 0

Third row, aisle seat, Jack Saunders opened the in-flight magazine. Distraction from the boredom of delay. He read a feature on the best ten cafes in Vienna. Another about the emerging club scene in Budapest. Cities he had no intention of visiting. Next, he picked out the safety advice card, studying pictograms so he was fully versed in case of crisis. No pretty little image to help the current situation.

Available to read online at Medium