Just a quick update to let you know that THE WORD has won Book of the Year at the international Rubery Book Award!
The judges described it as “an exciting, well-written and thought-provoking read” that “never preaches, but offers finely tuned social commentary” and “explores themes of national identity, inequality and fear with sensitivity”.
You can see all the category winners and read writeups of the shorlisted books on the awards website here.
And, if you haven’t read it, you can pick up THE WORD at Amazon, Waterstones, or even better, your local indie bookshop.
The sun’s out, the temperature is finally up out of blanket-over-my-knees territory, and I’ve got a whole lot of writing related stuff to tell you about. Yay?
Thing the first: Usk Literary Hub/Book Haven is a new initiative by Saron Publishers to help local authors promote their work. It’s based at Sprokwobbles cafe in Usk and will be launching next Friday, May 20th, from 6-9 PM. If you’re in the area, you can pop along to say hi, pick up a copy of The Word, or chat to other local authors.
Thing the second: I’ve got a story in Issue #8 of Wyldblood Magazine, which came out last month. “Crane Flies” is about loss, killer bugs, and why you should always listen to weird old ladies. You can pick up a copy here.
September, and the grass in the top meadow is thick with crane flies. Pip dislodges them with every step and they drift into the air, limbs gangling, to swoop and flit at apparent random, threatening to dive-bomb her face or tangle in her hair.
She remembers hearing, once, that they were the most poisonous creatures on the planet, but they couldn’t harm you because they didn’t have mouths to bite with. Auntie Cath said that was a load of old bollocks, but then Auntie Cath was always full of it.
As a young reader, I devoured books about mad girls.
Fiction and memoir; all kinds of disorders. Girl, Interrupted and Prozac Nation; Wasted and Life-Size; The Bell Jar and In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. There was something in all those books that spoke to the trauma of (cis) female adolescence, of coming of age in a body marked as an object of desire or disgust – but there was more than that.
Plus, keep an eye out for new stories coming up in the next issue of Fusion Fragment and the upcoming mini-anthology Ebb Tides, and one from my alter ego, Louise Long, in a collection of masquerade stories from Duck Prints Press.
Hey, just a quick update with a couple of things from me!
Thing the first: Tomorrow — that’s January 13th — I’ll be doing an Ask Me Anything on the Reddit fantasy forum, r/fantasy. New Welsh Rarebyte have kindly agreed to give away 10 ebook copies of The Word to commenters, so here’s your chance to grab one if you haven’t read it. And if you have, here’s your chance to find out my brownie recipe/favourite Spice Girl/maybe even something writing-related, who knows?
Thing the second: My new story, “The Last Good Day”, is out now in Issue #7 of Cossmass Infinities. It’s about living through the apocalypse while going through a quieter, personal one of your own. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever written, and Cossmass is a beautiful magazine, well worth picking up in hardcopy.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I’ve decided to make my Mari Lwyd story, “Grey Mary”, available to read for free on Patreon.
I’m also going to be posting exclusive flash-or-slightly-longer fiction at the end of every month going into 2022, which you can read for one human pound a month. If you enjoy my writing and would like to support your friendly local specfic-monkey, sign up, maybe?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…