It’s that time of year again…

…when the writers crawl out of our caves and blow our trumpets like we’re our own mums. Yes, that means it’s time for an awards eligibility post!

Photo by Sara Cohen on Unsplash

Here’s what I published this year.

The Word, adult SF novel (New Welsh Rarebyte)

I follow Jonno inside, like I follow him everywhere, and secure the door behind us. Then I wedge a kitchen chair under the handle to be sure. The activity helps, keeps me from listening too anxiously to the quiet, and I roam from room to room closing curtains, filling our water bottles, assessing the furniture for what might be most effectively stacked against the doors. Jonno stands at the kitchen table, leaning forward on flat palms, motionless. When I open my mouth to ask if he’s planning on helping me out anytime soon, he holds up a hand for silence.

“Listen,” he says. “They’re coming.”

It’s a distant, mechanical rumble. Could be any kind of heavy machinery, from this far away.

We both know better. And as it approaches, moment by moment, even my reluctant ears detect the high, thin wail of feedback from a cliff-face of speakers, the anticipatory crackle of enough amplifiers to blow open your skull.

“Thawing”, short story, Wyldblood Magazine Issue 1 (Jan 2021)

The ice princess watched over us from her plinth in the city square, crystalline, inviolate, and perfect.

The first time I saw her, I was a child, tugging restlessly at my father’s hand as we waited for Mother to finish up her business in the city. The day had dragged on longer than expected, forcing him to spend money on hot tea and handcakes from the vendors who lined the square. My ears were cold and I was tired of walking, grizzling and complaining endlessly—until the clouds parted and allowed through a pale beam of winter sun that glittered on her face. I stopped, transfixed, and Father hoisted me into his arms, glad of the distraction. “Did I tell you the story of Princess Eira?” he said. “No? Well, it’s about time I did.”

Obviously, I’d love you to buy a copy and support the magazine, but I know a lot of us are counting the pennies at this time of year. You can also read “Thawing” by signing up for my newsletter here!

“Diamonds and Pearls”, short story, Fireside (Feb 2021)

Diamonds are two a penny, but everybody wants them anyway.

At first, Osian thinks it’s because they hurt. Every time he speaks a new word in the common tongue and a diamond comes up, it feels like dying, like its hard angles will tear his throat open. Something you have to suffer for like that, you hold on to. You want to believe it’s worth something.

“Osteography”, short story, Cossmass Infinities (May 2021)

Our messenger speeds out of town with the first grey of dawn, and in the evening, Shardon sends us his bones.

His sister empties them onto my table in dry-eyed silence. They’re clean and golden-brown as though stained by years underground, a burnished shine beneath the alien head of the operating light.

“You’re sure it’s him?” I ask.

She fingers an old callus, a slight overlap of fractured ends. “What bone is this?”

“The radius,” I say. Her face stays blank. “In the forearm. This would have been just above the wrist.”

“He broke it when we were children. Fell out of a tree.”

“Bluebell Song”, short story, Luna Station Quarterly (Sep 2021)

Old Woman Achan goes out to the woods before dawn and sits amid the undergrowth and fills her ears with the song of the bluebells. To a stranger it would look like a pleasure-jaunt, and an ill-advised one too, but Achan chooses her place carefully. She listens with intent. When she closes her eyes, she imagines she hears the bluebells move, craning their bright heads toward her. Of course, when she opens them again, nothing has changed. The flowers hang delicate as raindrops from their stems. Looking at them, Achan thinks a single touch might send them tumbling to the ground. Each petal curls back neatly from the mouth of the flower, leaving them open in endless song.

Happy book birthday to me!

THE WORD is finally here!

Yes, it’s October 28th, which means my first book is finally out in the world! I’m very excited, and a little terrified.

There’s still time to book tickets for the online launch, which takes place at 8 PM tonight — and of course, THE WORD is available from all good bookshops (and Amazon) now.

The Word is out THIS WEEK!

Well, that happened fast.

Just over three years ago, I saw a call for entries for the New Welsh Writing Awards that perfectly suited an idea that had been percolating in the back of my mind for a while — a first draft that hadn’t quite worked, given new meaning through a science fiction setting. Problem was, there were only two weeks until the deadline, so I wrote the whole thing in a red-misted haze, emailed a friend to make sure it made sense, and sent it to face the tender mercies of the judges.

Then, it won.

Now it’s a full-length novel, coming out this Thursday, October 28th!

According to today’s Western Mail Weekend Magazine, it’s “an unsettling book that works beautifully on many levels … a great adventure story with survival and rebellion at its heart.”

But you want to make up your own mind, right? You can pre-order a copy from the usual suspects, and if you come to the online launch in partnership with Griffin Books on Thursday, the cost of the ticket is redeemable against a copy of the book from Griffin.

Hope to see you there!

“Osteography” out now in Cossmass Infinities

Our messenger speeds out of town with the first grey of dawn, and in the evening, Shardon sends us his bones.

I wrote “Osteography” late last year, and took an online course on osteoarcheology to get it right, which is probably the most research I’ve ever done for a short story. It’s a little bit SF, a little bit creepy, and I’m very proud of it.

If you’d like to read it, it’s out now in Issue #5 of Cossmass Infinities, and you can pick up a copy here.

It’s a really stellar lineup of authors, plus look at that gorgeous cover art! I hope you enjoy it.

Old bones, new story

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Do you like slightly spooky SF? If so, you’re in luck, because my story “Osteography”, which is all about old bones and the misuse of science, is out in next month’s issue of Cossmass Infinities. I took an online course on osteoarchaeology to write this, which I think is the most intensive research I’ve ever done for a short story.

It’s out on May 1st, and preorders are available now. I’m very proud of it, and I hope you like it too!

Diamonds, pearls, and other shiny things.

I hope you’re finding some bright spots in the seemingly-endless gloom of February lockdown. For me it’s my weekly cuppa from Brodie’s coffee shed on the way to/from work — not so much because of the caffeine as the brief illusion of normality you get from exchanging a few words with a friendly person. I’d never have imagined a cup of tea could be so exciting, but it is what it is.

Anyway, this is a place for news, so here’s something. Two somethings, in fact!

Something the First: My new short story, “Diamonds and Pearls”, is now free to read at Fireside Fiction. It’s about love, language, and finding yourself, and it’s one of the happiest things I’ve ever written. I hope it cheers you up, too.

Something the Second: Back in 2019, I won the Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella for The Word, a short and creepy piece about a fortress Britain where young people with preternatural powers are exploited as weapons of war. The Word was slated to be published in March, but the publication date has now been pushed back to October… because the excellent folks at New Welsh Rarebyte have agreed to publish the expanded, full-length novel version!

I’m very excited, and slightly terrified. Watch this space (or subscribe to my newsletter) for updates, events, and maybe how to get your hands on a review copy…

A wild end-of-year post appears

This is the first year I’ve published enough to really bother with one of these. I’m not calling it an eligibility post, because honestly, even if I was successful enough to be nominated for things, who has the time to go through checking eligibility criteria and what-have-you? But I like making lists. They make me feel like I’ve achieved things! So, here you go.

Welcome to the 27 Club (February, Electric Spec)

CW: Self-harm, suicidal thoughts

I used to go looking for others. Study faces for the look of dislocation in the eyes, listen for the slip-up that would betray the discomfort of wearing another’s skin. I even dropped hints. There had to be someone, I thought; someone in the same boat, as alone and lost as I was. I never found them, and as the years slipped by, I stopped looking.

Catching My Death (April, Writers of the Future vol. 36)

Jacob caught his death yesterday.

I watched him carry it back to town from the top of the hospital steps. It looked like a good one: quiet, nestled like a kitten in the crook of his arm.

There weren’t a lot of spectators. Tuesday morning, and a few idling shoppers trickled out onto the street to rubberneck, but no crowd. I’d been sitting on the steps toying with a cigarette and waiting for Mum, but when I saw the bright red flag of Jacob’s jacket I jumped up. He’d been out in the forest since last Friday night, and we’d begun to wonder if he’d be one of the ones who didn’t come home.

Shards (July, Curiosities vol. 7)

Else jumped down from the mantel, dusted off her skirt, and regarded him with big, frank brown eyes. “Who are you?” she demanded, and then, as though remembering to do so was a bit of an inconvenience, added, “I’m Else.”

“Red.” He stuck out his hand, because that that was what you did when you were trying to be polite. Nobody in the House really bothered, of course, but something about Else made him feel he should make the effort. Her clothes were blindingly clean, for one thing, and he couldn’t see a single patch or darned-up tear. Perhaps that meant she was important.

Reprint: We Speak in Tongues of Flame (September, Gwyllion)

She makes a game of it, sometimes, trying to break their concentration. She has chalks in all the bright colours of the insect kingdom, and when she starts early, she can cover a quarter of the square in flowers and monsters and women with flowing tresses before they arrive. A young recruit forgot himself and stared, once, and the blush that coloured his face when she caught him looking warmed her from within for days.

It wasn’t a warmth born of lust, or even, really, of pride. It was pure, clean spite.

Beach Dirt on Bare Feet (October, Her Magical Pet)

“I told him I didn’t need anyone.” Her accent’s almost local, but not quite, a strangeness in the careful way she articulates the words. Not exactly foreign, but not exactly familiar.

I take a step into the darkness, feeling gingerly along the bottom of the pool with my bare feet. My eyes take a moment to adjust, but when they do, I make out the shadowy outline of a woman—and the rock that’s trapping her right leg.

“Right,” I say. “I’ll head off then, shall I? Because you look like you’re managing fine.”

White Shapes in Snow (December, New Welsh Reader)

CW: Rape mention, drugs

Hunched into the wind for the long tramp up Trebanog Hill, he keeps catching glimpses from the corners of his eyes. Pale loping forms as big as a man: ape or wolf or something not-human anyway, with limbs that move in ways limbs shouldn’t. They aren’t there when he turns to look at them, but as soon as he faces front again, they’re back. It’s snowing hard now, a thick staticky curtain all around him, and the pockets of his hoodie do nothing to protect his hands from the cold. The sole of his right boot is coming off at the front, freezing slush creeping in and soaking his sock, and it catches on a flagstone and sends him down thump onto one knee on the icy pavement, numb claws scrabbling for a handhold to lever himself upright again.

Grey Mary (December, Sinister Horror Company advent calendar)

There, up ahead: the Mari, hollow eyes leering at me out of the snowy dark. Then I blink, and the skull is gone. It’s just Mary. There’s something about how the snow seems to fall past her, not settling on her bob or the shoulders of her cardigan. Something that makes her seem not quite here. My stomach knots, and I think for a moment about going home to a fire, a drink, and a bit of crap TV.

I don’t. I keep following, drawn in Mary’s wake through the snow.

…And that’s all she wrote. Or at least, all she managed to get published. Happy New Year, and here’s hoping the next one’s an improvement!

“Grey Mary” now up at the SSHC advent calendar!

I was chuffed to bits when, earlier this year, J. R. Park of the Sinister Horror Company got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in contributing to their horror advent calendar. Naturally, I heard ‘Christmas horror story’ and thought immediately of the Mari Lwyd (though you’ll hear people arguing about whether she’s a Christmas or a New Year tradition).

The result was “Grey Mary”, and it’s up on the website now! Head on over if you fancy a scare… and don’t forget to check out the other stories while you’re there.