Writing Wrap-Up 2021

I love the autumn and the winter. There’s something really nostalgic and heady about nearing the end of the year. A lot of people see this as a depressing time of year, but I love it. It’s a chance to look back at the year that was and look forward to the year ahead.

2021 was a fire in a bin full of human faeces in some respects, the pandemic still keeps us in its grip and impacts our daily lives, not to mention the mental health of many of us. That said, in writing terms, it’s been pretty successful in its own little way.

Books & Cool Stuff

Dark Missives

Come on, as if I wasn’t going to mention my debut collection being born into the world. Dark Missives came out in April and to be honest, the response overwhelmed me. The reviews have been universally great and I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to buy a copy, read the thing, write down their opinion or tell a friend about this book.

In truth, the book sold better than I thought it would. I don’t think my marketing game is as strong as it could be. I’ve dabbled in a few things – podcast appearances, paid ads, promos. Some have worked better than others. All of them have taught me things to use for the next book.

It’s a great feeling to have a product out there that I’m proud of. Let’s hope Dark Missives hasn’t released readers from its disgusting grip just yet…

The Other Stories – Best Of Volume 1

It was a huge honour to learn that one of the stories I’ve had published by Hawk & Cleaver at The Other Stories Podcast made the cut for their inaugural Best Of volume. The story in question is Collaboration, which made quite a splash with certain readers. It’s been brilliant to see my work appear not only on the podcast but in this tome alongside writers that I really admire like Kev Harrison, Michael David Wilson and Luke Kondor.

The chaps at Hawk & Cleaver did a great job on the book itself. It’s a magnificent hardback volume with an incredible cover. The high level of production matches the overall quality of the podcast they put into the world. I’m grateful to be involved with the podcast and proud to have made the cut for this fantastic book.

The Witching Hour

Sticking with the guys at Hawk & Cleaver, I was lucky enough to be part of a small band of writers that contributed an episode to their superb Halloween special – The Witching Hour. This series of podcasts launched on Halloween week and centres on the participants of a ritual deep in the woods, each episode is told from a different character’s perspective and reveals a new layer of horror to proceedings. My thanks to Andy Conduit-Turner and Jasmine Arch in particular for their attention to detail and hard work in bringing the story together.

Overall Writing Update

Another very productive year at the keyboard if not one that has yet produced much to show for it.

In the first part of the year, I completed work on The Clearances, my near-future, dark thriller. It’s a novel that I’m really proud of. I completed the first draft, then did all the work on Dark Missives before going back and editing/rewriting the book a few times. In the end, I think it’s a strong piece of work. It’s yet to find a home but has had a number of near misses. Keep your fingers crossed for 2022 , everyone!

Following on from The Clearances, I also finished the first draft of another novel – Limited Series. This one is… tricky, to say the least. The idea around it is solid. Without saying too much, it’s set on a TV set and has elements of both crime and folk horror intertwined. It’s part murder mystery, part small town horror. The first draft is complete but needs serious work in order to click into place. It still runs through my mind a lot. A massive edit is required.

By the end of 2021, I’d also like to complete a draft of a ghost story novella that I’m working on. It’s a little bit of a nostalgic piece, set in the mid-90’s and refers to a time and situation of my life that I look back on very fondly. I can’t say too much more about it yet, but it does already have a home. Which leads us nicely on to…

Plans for 2022

Sadly this part is a little vague on the details, but the main thing is that there will be at least two different books coming out next year with my name on the cover.

Territory, my arctic, rural horror novella will be hitting shelves in the first half of 2022. This will be a Northern Republic release and I’ll be doing as much as possible of the production myself. I’ve tooled up and skilled up in certain areas and I also have a few plans to document my journey from Word doc to finished, final book. I’m really excited to finally get this book out there. It’s hit the spot for a few beta readers so I’m hoping a wider audience will like it too.

I’ve also got a collaborative book coming out next year. Again, this will be another Northern Republic production that I’ll be taking the lead on. This is the home that I have already found for my ghost story novella. I’m not sure on timescales for this one yet, between the collaborators, we are doing everything ourselves but keep an eye out in the coming months for some news around this one.

There may be more releases to come in 2022, but I guess I’ll just have to roll with the punches and see what comes along.

On the writing front, it might be another two novel year, it might not. I’ve got one book in need of serious rewriting but there is another novel idea that I’ll be starting as soon as 2022 is on us. Whatever happens, thanks for reading this post and (hopefully) my work in general. Enjoy your festive period, even if it brings nothing more than time off work and time with family and friends.

Take care and hopefully I’ll see you back here in 2022.


2021 – A Look Back

2021, much like it’s bastard sibling 2020 is about to retreat into dust in the rear-view mirror. May it burn in hell.

That said, aside from the plague and the world burning up and the Tories, there have been a few really amazing pieces of literature brought out that have lifted me from out of the doomscrolling and misery. I thought I’d share a few books that have helped to make this year memorable. They’re in no particular order where possible please try to buy them locally and from an independent.

Hinton Hollow Death Trip – Will Carver

It’s no secret that I love Will Carver’s work. Sometimes you just click with an author. Nothing Important Happened Today is perhaps ironically, a very important book for me, so I was very interested to read Hinton Hollow Death Trip and see whether Carver could keep up his hit rate. Oh boy… What a read. A dark, funny, sardonic takedown of British small town life. Written from the perspective of Evil itself (seriously, it’s so well done), this book takes you places you don’t want to go and makes you look at the wreckage even when you want to turn away.

Deity – Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories is the best crime series out there at the moment. Bar none. Fight me. Deity is the sixth installment, the books are only connected by the central figure, podcaster Scott King so you can dip in and out at any point. Deity focuses on a titan of the pop world, his death in a fire and increasing rumours of not only his “habits” but his involvement in the occult. As ever, the narrative is deftly woven between horror and crime, all packaged into the wonderful podcast format. Definitely worth a read.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club – Craig Davidson

There’s so much to love about this book. The blurb mentions Stranger Things but there’s something more tender, more emotive in this book. You peel back the mystery and the layers reveal a broken heart. One of my standouts of the year. Superb writing.

The Last Thing to Burn – Will Dean

This is a stunning, daring novel. So tense it literally made grip the book tighter. There is an intense, claustrophobic feel to the text. A horror here beyond the reach of most horror books. To say too much about the plot is to spoil it, but the awfulness of this book stayed with me for a long time.

Conviction – Denisa Mina

There’s clearly a theme emerging here, I love a book that mentions podcasts! This is another belter in which a pair of characters get sucked into a mystery and podcast their way out of it. The protagonist is spiky and brittle, truly memorable writing.

True Crime Story – Joseph Knox

I told myself I wasn’t going to play favourites with this list but I lied. This is my book of 2021. Absolutely extraordinary. An epistolary novel about the disappearance of a Manchester university student. The author inserts himself into the narrative. Honestly, just read it. A stunner.

The Dying Squad – Adam Simcox

A recently deceased detective must solve his own murder. Yeah – that logline got you too, didn’t it? There’s so much to love here. A twisty plot, examination of the machinery of the afterlife and a smart-arse sidekick. I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

The Run Fantastic – Luke Kondor

This book is absolutely batshit in all the right ways. A man dies and effectively tries to run himself back to life. This book has it all – wild imagination, a few really touching insights on life and death as well as some proper belly laughs. The Mighty Boosh meets Stephen King’s The Long Walk.

The Apparition Phase – Will Maclean

I read this on holiday in a few quick gulps. It’s one of the best modern ghost stories I’ve read. Haunting and touching in equal measure, this one hits all the right notes of the classic ghost story. Two school-aged twins decide to fake a ghost to scare a classmate. What can go wrong…

Dead Relatives – Lucie McKnight Hardy

Another belter to finish this list with. The stories within this collection are all superb. There’s a real Shirley Jackson feel to them. The unsettling within the everyday. That air of dread in familiar situations. There are some gut punches here and some genuine horror. I can’t wait to see what Lucie writes next.

That’s it from me for the book recommendations. Do you agree with any of them? Do you have any of your own? Tweet me – @danhowarth20 and let’s talk books.