The last time I posted here I was sweating in the (relative) heat of the British summer, now I’m sipping tea and wondering whether I can afford to put the heating on for an hour to take the edge off the cold. Things change quickly, sometimes they change without you noticing.

I appeared recently on the This Is Horror podcast to chat with Michael David Wilson and David Moody about writing and books. While I was on there, I stumbled upon a nugget of truth I wanted to expand upon here. The truth I wanted to talk about was – finding the joy in what you do. As with everything I do or talk about, it came back around to writing. I’m always looking (or stumbling into) opinions or experiences that will inform my writing. I found one when talking on the show.

Earlier this year, I took up playing snooker again. My grandad and my dad used to play when I was a kid, I played as a kid. Since my grandad died, I’d stopped playing – perhaps it made me miss him too much, who knows? But I got back into it, playing with a friend a couple of times a week.

At first we went down, racked up the balls, and played with the wonky, chipped cues we found at the club. We were terrible. Really, really bad. But it was so fun and freeing to get back into the game. We’d miss easy pots and laugh about it. We’d have sessions where we’d pot very little beyond the white ball. But we’d have a chat and a laugh and just enjoy playing a very difficult game very badly.

But then things changed. We enjoyed it so much we bought proper cues. We started thinking about shots and technique and position. Started watching the professionals with more of a critical eye.

It became more about winning and playing well and improving every session rather than just playing for sure.

We got to the point recently where we’re grinding our teeth over narrowly missing shots we’d have had no chance at all of potting even six months ago. There was a point one or both of us would go home pissed off on account of not winning or not playing well or not bagging the shots we thought we should.

I’ve circled round the point here like Ronnie O’Sullivan guiding the cue ball into position… I lost sight of the fun of it all. I wanted to improve and play better and I forgot the reason I started playing in the first place. To enjoy myself. To escape from work and some of the rubbish things in the world. To have an hour where I lose myself in something and just forget to worry.

Snooker is of course the same as writing.

I started writing for fun. I started writing to tell stories to frighten myself or create little scenes that made me laugh or cringe or fret that I’m actually a terrible person. I started writing to entertain myself and if I admit it – entertain others too. But I wanted to sit down at the keyboard and enjoy myself when I wrote.

I think somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that fact entirely. First it came with wanting to improve as a writer, then get published in small presses, then publish my own work, then get and agent and become traditionally published. Ambition overtook me and created a level of stress a hobby shouldn’t generate.

(NOTE – I hate referring to writing as a hobby as at this point it is basically a vocation for me, but since I don’t make much money from it, I can’t really call it a job.)

So 2024 for me will be about reclaiming the joy in what I do when I write. I’ll be letting it all hang out – writing the stories that light me up. I’ll be working on projects close to my heart and trying to channel some of the moments where I’ve just enjoyed what I’m doing.

I figure the more I can let myself enjoy the process and enjoy being in the moment of writing, the better writer I’ll be. It shouldn’t be improvement at the expense of fun or vice versa, one can lead to the other. But from now on, no more stressing, no more grinding teeth.

Back to basics, time to enjoy what I do.



I’m fairly sure the last time I posted here I promised I would do so more regularly. *rubs glasses* My last post was in March… Damn… Note to self – write here more. I am still posting semi-regular updates via my newsletter (by all means, sign up and get yourself a free ebook.)

A lot has happened since March. My last post featured me posting about the completion of Last Night of Freedom and my hopes for the book. Things have not panned out too well for me since then. The book didn’t get me the dream agent that I hoped it would. To be honest, it didn’t get as much attention from agents in general as I thought/hoped it would.

The previous books I’ve submitted have all had a decent level of interest but Last Night of Freedom just hasn’t caught on fire in that way. It’s a shame but it is what it is. A combination of poorly timed submissions, my initial pitch perhaps not being as sharp as I honed it to later on, and the violent subject matter just combined to make it fizzle out a little. It’s a strong book, after some soul-searching I do still believe that but perhaps it isn’t THE book that gets me over the line with representation.

It’s disappointing but the good thing about writing is – there’s always another book. There will always be another book. If writing has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’m about a thousand times more resilient than I ever thought I could be. I keep getting knocked back and going again.

Since I last posted here, I’ve completed the first draft of another novel, perhaps the most overtly horror thing I’ve written in years. The Trawl is a story about a northern fishing village, destitute because of Brexit, and now under threat because something insidious lurks beneath the waves. The book has shades of awe, faith, cosmic horror, and… industrial fishing… It’s far from perfect but in time, I’ll knock the rough edges off and see how I feel about it.

In July I went to Harrogate Crime Writing Festival with the excellent Wayne Kelly. I made some proof copies of Last Night of Freedom and managed to get them into the hands of some pretty cool people. I think seeing the book as a tangible “thing” will help not only them to picture it as a product in its finished form but also for me to think again about publishing and what happens next.

So where does that leave me?

Good question. The answer is – still writing. I’m working on a new novel because the only way I know is forward and through. I’ve got a concept of a novel I’ve written before but didn’t like the end result. It played it too safe and straight, so I’m throwing a lot more of myself at it, adding a few curveballs. After that, there’s work to be done on The Trawl and then this new book. Ideas and inspiration aren’t ever the issue for me, thankfully. I’m always here, crafting, working, trying to improve.

I’ll be back soon to give an update on what the rest of the year will hold on the publishing side of things. I’m yet to release a book this year and I’m unsure whether to push on and release one later or to hold my water and go for a double in 2024. I’m genuinely yet to decide and I’ll explain those reasons next time out. I’m sure it won’t take as long next time.

Take it easy,