Phew – 2022 is now in the record books and what a year it was. We’re somehow coming through the pandemic (or so we’re told) and life is mostly resembling how things were before.
It’s been a hell of a year behind the keyboard as well as away from it. It’s been a year of achievements, discoveries and of course – disappointments. That feels like a slightly negative note but I’m okay with failing. It’s how I learn. I’m only ever going to achieve my goals if I shoot for them, and taking multiple shots inevitably ends with some of them missing. That’s how it is.
In terms of resilience, 2022 has pushed me to my limits. We started the year with family Covid and in May I broke my right wrist. Whilst we were lucky to get away with a light dose of Covid symptoms, there’s no denying that breaking my wrist was a disaster. I had to take time off work for the first time in a decade, it also made it really painful and awkward to type for a long time. That said, I didn’t miss a day of 1,000 word target throughout. Sure, it took longer. Sure, I had to grit my teeth and power through. But I did it. And I learned that I’m stronger than I thought, that I want this WAY more than I thought I did. That’s progress in it’s own sick little way.
The headline news from this year was the release of Territory, my snowbound horror novella, set in the wilds of Finland. Whilst this book hasn’t earned enough money for me to retire (damn!) it seems to have been a hit with readers. Reviews and messages have been overwhelmingly positive and flattering. Territory got some great reviews and the wonderful Tim Lebbon even tweeted saying he’d really enjoyed reading it. One of my highlights of the year!
Weird Horror #5
2022 saw me land my best short story sale to date. Michael Kelly at the fabulous Undertow Publications picked my story “Aperture” for Weird Horror #5. I’ve always admired UP so it was a real honour to make the pages of this wonderful mag and to find my work alongside such fantastic authors as Brian Evenson and Megan Taylor.
“Aperture” is an ode to my burgeoning love of photography and marks a slight stylistic departure from my usual approach. I’ve gone for something subtler here, starker. I like to think it works.
You can read the story at the Undertow website.
The Other Stories
I was thrilled to work with the lovely people at Hawk & Cleaver again as they produced an audio version of my story “The Blunt Edges” as part of their Haunting theme. I absolutely love the old school ghost stories of M.R. James and his contemporaries. My story here is an ode to that, complete with a haunted artefact and a fussy professor.
You can listen to it here.
2022 Writing Wrap-Up
The bulk of this year’s writing time went on one significant project – a new novel called Last Night of Freedom. This is a very dark thriller which I’m pitching as The Hangover meets Adam Nevill’s The Ritual. I had a blast writing this one from the word go and hopefully that shows in the final text. There’s some humour here and some violence. Hopefully, I’ve nailed the right mix. Feedback from early readers has been very positive so let’s hope this is a book that really makes its mark.
I knocked together this writing prompt for the book, which a few people have said should be the cover. I don’t know about that but it certainly seems pretty effective!
I invested an awful lot of time working on edits with an editor for Lionhearts. The book has been picked up by an indie press and a 2023 release is likely. I’ve not announced it yet but some of the news has leaked out to the eagle-eyed amongst you. More news when we have a date and a cover etc.
I’m currently writing a novella called The Passenger. This will likely see daylight in 2023 at some point. It’s a quieter, more meditative piece in some ways. It’s a story of a haunting, grief, and domestic abuse. It needs to be pitched just right and hopefully I’m getting there.
2022 saw a little bit of a pivot for me as well. I’ve always been interested in different media – audio and screenwriting have always appealed but have felt like something I needed to invest proper time in. So I did. I booked a place on an in-person screenwriting course in Liverpool and can honestly say, it’s some of the best time and money I’ve spent on my writing – if not THE BEST. It’s been a revelation.
This year I’ve thrown myself into writing for the screen. Before the course I completed a screenplay of Territory and was really pleased with myself. However, learning at the knee of a professional screenwriter every week taught me that this script is appalling! It’ll be getting a thorough look over in 2023 and probably restarted from scratch. But it taught me some lessons.
I’ve also written five short films this year. Some are adaptations of my own short stories whereas there are two originals – Nothing Arrived and Some Castles Made of Sand. Quite what I’m going to do with them, I don’t know, but they’re useful to have in the back pocket.
As part of my course I’ve written a pilot for a TV show called Static. It’s a folk-horror/crime show set on the North West coast of England in a creepy fictional town full of Old Gods and missing kids. It’s not perfect (yet) but there’s the bones of something decent there. I hope…
2022 has definitely been a year of expanded knowledge and new skills. There have been times I’ve felt myself grow as a writer. My understanding of story structure, character and the inner workings of what makes a good tale are getting better by the day. In 2023, it’s time to really push on and see what I can achieve.
By the end of 2023 I’d like to have completed another novel, one if not more feature film screenplays and the treatment for Static (maybe with a full pilot episode rewrite). I’ve got a healthy slate of ideas bubbling away and there are plenty that need a bit of work to get over the line.
This time of year brings its usual melancholy for me. A mixture of optimism for the coming year but also time to step back and reflect on the last 12 months. It’s great to pick the bones out of the successes and (many) failures, to gorge on the lessons and to take some momentum forwards into the New Year and see what can be achieved.