Channelling the flow.

Professional editing is vital but, taken in a single chunk, it represents a financial cost that many independent authors (and indeed some independent presses) balk at. This is a problem because – even if the core work is good – it can be undermined by plot inconsistencies, lacklustre characterisation, or simple technical errors. You may save money on the project but the cost of cutting corners can be huge.

Your submissions keep getting rejected? How will you get your work out there?

You’re struggling to get reviews, or find them uncomplimentary? How will you sell your books?

If finance is a problem for you then it becomes a problem for me too, as a freelance editor. After all, how can I earn a living if the people who most need me can’t get the budget together for my services? I’ve mentioned before that my aim is to make this a full-time career. That means channelling the flow of freelance income into a steadier stream.

Tricky, eh?

Well, I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty good solution: an Affordable Payment Plan for clients.

I know plenty of people who do something similar in order to save up for Christmas each year, or to book themselves a proper holiday for once. It’s tough to save these days but if it’s important enough then the best thing seems to be keeping it separate from your normal finances. Out of sight, out of mind.

I’ve answered some of the most obvious questions below, but I’d be happy to talk things through if other questions or scenarios occur to you.

How does this plan work then?

It’s simple. Let’s say you’ve begun work on a manuscript and you know you’ll want it edited once it’s done. Money’s tight, so you’d choose a small, affordable amount to pay regularly and we’d set up a schedule, building your savings up to cover the cost of the job. We’re just talking about a standing order here, nothing fancy. I would send you e-receipts as each payment arrives, and also provide you with a running total to help you keep track of your funds. I’d only begin work on the editing job once you’re all saved up and tell me you’re ready to go.

Sounds good, but why give you the money? I’ve got my own savings account.

And I’m happy for you to use it. Whatever works for you. The Affordable Payment Plan is there as a solution for people who may be struggling to do so.

It works as a psychological aid as much as anything. Every writer faces moments where they lose faith in their ability, or in their current project. In those moments of darkness it is perilously easy to burn through your savings on short-term comforts. Pre-paying for your long-term goal will help you avoid those temptations and keep you on the path. Seeing your savings balance grow should also help focus your creative efforts and the determination to get that manuscript finished, edited, and soaring out into the world.

What’s the catch?

There is no catch. You’re not tied in. The benefits for me are mainly psychological too. I’m trying to reach the tipping point where I feel able to quit the day-job in order to work as The Fine-toothed Comb full-time. That’s a scary jump to make in this economic climate. Building a portfolio of pre-paying clients will help me plan my work schedule over a much longer period of time and – critically – to begin forecasting my income instead of working on an ad hoc basis.

I get that, but money’s tight for everyone. What if I can’t always afford it?

Firstly, I would strongly encourage you to only pay what you can realistically afford to save on a regular basis, even if that means it’ll take longer than you hope. Secondly, emergencies do crop up for everybody I recognise that. Rest assured, I’m no ogre. If your situation changes, just get in touch with me. We can talk through any necessary adjustments such as putting your payment plan on pause for one-off situations, or else reducing the amounts you pay regularly.

What if I change my mind entirely? I might need all that cash.

You might indeed. Situations change. In recognition of that fact, I make the following commitment: if you instruct me to cancel the editing job before I’ve begun to work on it, I’ll undertake to repay your money in full within 24 hours of receiving your request. (Remember, I won’t start to work on your project until you’ve given me specific instructions to do so. You are in control.)

And if you have already begun working on the job but I still need to cancel?

I would have to charge you for the work that I have already completed but I would refund the rest, no questions asked.

 

Does all this sound pretty interesting to you? Do you have any questions for me, or any other feedback?

Drop a comment, e-mail me at dion@thefinetoothed.com or ping me a message on social media.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dion.

 

 

FantasyCon 2018. Sat/Sun. Hanging together.

As a novice to the convention circuit, you study the schedule, make careful plans as to what panels and events you most want to attend, and then you spend all your time dashing around, assiduously writing notes, sweating, and occasionally weeping in the corner. It’s damned hard work. You wonder why people do this to themselves year on year and (looking around in despair and frustration) why everyone else seems to be just…hanging around in the bar.

The more of these events you go to, the more apparent it becomes that you got it all wrong. It’s not about the programme; that just serves as a framework to hang it all from. The panels provide a handy entry point for industry newcomers, shine light on subjects you might not be familiar with, and (when sitting on them) can be used as a platform from which to become better known. When all is said and done though, it’s the people who make a convention.

 

(FantasyCon – where worlds collide.)

 

The interactions, the building of friendships and business networks, the hints and tips of mutual and moral support— this stuff can happen anywhere. You just need to bring people together. I think that became something of a theme this year, due to the lateness of the brochures but (counter-intuitively) it might just have made FantasyCon better. I love fantasy and science fiction but my avenue into editing was through the genre of horror. As such, I’ve gotten to know more of the people from that tribe than any of the others so far. While sometimes belittled by cultural snobbery, I can proudly state that the publishers and writers of horror form one of the warmest, most generous, and mutually supportive groups I’ve ever met.

For a case in point, rewind back to early afternoon – just after the Hersham Horror launch. There was a little ceremony at the back of the Jubilee room, unofficial like. Lisa Childs had arranged a special birthday present for her brother, who runs Dark Minds Press. It was a collection of short-stories, under the modest title ‘Ross Warren: I am Legend,’ written by some of his favourite authors. Many had come up with original stories specifically for this collection, some had altered existing stories to personalise them with Ross-specific details. This was no small thing. None of the authors charged for their talents and only one copy will ever be printed. It’s love, pure and simple.

 

(Legend.)

 

None of which is to say that panels hold no value. I haven’t mentioned it before but I did catch one more before my night out on Saturday, in support of my buddies. Phil Sloman has started to make a bit of a name for himself with his quietly witty, darkly psychological stories. He’s one of my dearest friends and I’ve been following his career with pride and envy for the past few years. He sat on the HWA panel alongside Marie O’Regan (co-chair of the HWA, UK chapter), the ubiquitous C.C. Adams, and Ramsey Campbell (genre legend and renowned toilet singer). They were moderated by the Maura McHugh, who is shrewd, funny, and fabulous. Together they explored the deep value of unions in the creative arts, beginning with the fundamentally lonely position of the writer, moving on to the difficulties and complexities they can face in getting their work out into the world, and then demonstrating the strength that can be forged by pulling together as a tribe. It was powerful and inspiring stuff.

 

(It’s fun to be in the H! W! A! [sing along now] …be in the H! W! A-ay!)

The crowning glory for me though was the night without end.

I left the hotel, fresh from my nap and ready to raise hell at karaoke. Sure, I might not have much experience at it, I still felt a little woozy, and right now I couldn’t think of a decent song, but I was sure that something would come to me. I entered through the con bar and glanced around. One or two familiar faces, but just on nodding terms. I figured my crowd were already hogging the mic. Let’s just say the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. I poked my head into the lounge area and spotted some of my pals looking all cosy in the big leather armchairs. Aaaaaaaaand that was me set for the night. I mean, who’d want to be anywhere else?

I plonked down with the sinister Trace Elements, Wee Jimmy Ginger, Freudenstein, Duncan Doughnuts, and the Right Reverend Justin-case. Drinks were bought and consumed, though not to excess. I don’t really need it. Those who know me well can vouch for the depths of my depravity and the kinds of outrageous verbal ejaculations I’m prone to with naught but the tiniest application of oil. The night was still young but I think it’s fair to say I managed to surprise a few people. I seemed to go down well, anyway. Wait, let me rephrase that.

 

(BarCon. Hanging together. Photo by Simon Jones, courtesy of Jim McLeod. )

 

We were soon joined in dribs and drabs by a multitude of friends and an air of general celebration arose. I snagged a brief chat with Eliza Chan, Tim Major, and James Everington at the bar, trying to reconcile much-loved tales with their dubious authors. Not for the first time, I found myself wishing I could be in two places at once. They’re all interesting and intelligent people, and I’d love to have spent more time with them. I had a round of drinks to dole out though, back in the lounge.

Shortly after my return, Steve Shaw eased himself down in the comfy chair opposite, and we struck up an animated conversation. He was involved in my first two editing projects before I went freelance. I consider him a solid friend. Sad to say, we hadn’t seen much of each other over the past two years, but we darned well made up for it that night. Three hours solid, I’m sure, talking about everything and nothing at all.

The time went and so, eventually, did many of our group until only a Sinister core remained. We were joined by James Bennett, David Tallerman and James T. Harding – last men standing from another tribe. We sat in pleasant comfort, sipping Kit’s whisky and talking the rest of night away. I trotted off to bed around 7.30 in the morning, then got up an hour later to join Jim, Tim, James, and Phil for breakfast. Had the pleasure of meeting John Linwood Grant, too. A fine fella.

I may have been a little giddy with exhaustion. Certainly drew one or two puzzled looks from folk as I blathered on.

 

 

My final memories of the convention were grabbing my raffle prize (a wooden book/box filled with mysterious potions) and then heading down to the Unsung Stories launch. I’ve read a few of their books now and even worked on one of them: ‘You Will Grow Into Them,’ by Malcolm Devlin. Stunning publisher. They well deserved their BFS award this year.

The anthology being launched was called This Dreaming Isle, a collection of the uncanny. It was edited by Dan Coxon and featuring a panoply of talent, including Stephen Volk, Alison Littlewood, Rob Shearman, Aliya Whiteley, Ramsey Campbell, Jeannette Ng, Tim Lebbon, Catriona Ward, and Gary Budden – each of whom were on-hand to sign our copies. It was a huge gathering and brought together people from every speculative and fantastical sub-genre. I saw representatives from large publishers chatting with the independent presses. I heard conversations pushing for greater social and cultural inclusivity, both behind the scenes and between the book covers. It was heartening and it was humbling to behold, and I can think of no broader example of our unity to end this post on.

Here’s to Allen and Karen, the organisers; here’s to the Alasdair, Marguerite, and the rest of the redcloaks who helped out; here’s to all the publishers, the writers, and the editors who attended; here’s to the staff of the Queen Hotel; here’s to Chester; and here’s to everyone who’s been reading these posts. I love you all.

 

(Cheers!)

 

FantasyCon 2018. Saturday. In the groove.

If Friday was my busy day, Saturday was all about the mooching. I woke around 6.30. Not my plan, but the body gets used to certain routines; as far as it was concerned, this was just another day at the office. Had I been more organised and less ragged, I might have taken a stroll around town before breakfast – I hear Chester’s Roman walls are a real sight to behold – but I ditched that idea pretty quickly. Instead, I had a good hot shower, scratched out the beginnings of my Friday blog, and indulged in an extended breakfast downstairs. I’d neglected to add this latter treat to my booking, figuring I should probably find something cheaper locally, but the receptionist smoothly offered to add it to my bill rather than offer me directions to a competitor. I succumbed to convenience and greed. Hotel food is never exactly what you might call good but the phrase ‘all you can eat buffet’ provides such a sweet, sweet challenge.

 

FantasyCon and other such conventions can be a bit of a mish-mash, socially speaking. Groups form, split apart, then reform in different configurations though the days as individuals veer off to fulfil panel obligations, support their friends, or follow their own whims. This is probably why I can’t quite remember who I had breakfast with on Saturday but it might be just a rambling excuse to avoid embarrassment. What can I say? There was food to focus on. Anyway, breakfast banter caught us all up and then discussion turned to what Saturday might bring. I had planned to see ‘When Magic Goes Wrong,’ on the basis that panellist R.J. Barker always brings comedy gold to the game…but time was ticking by and I didn’t feel like rushing myself. Many of my convention friends come from a horror background and it turned out there was a run of launches from their various presses starting at 11 o’clock and carrying on until 2. I was always going to the first of these sessions because I’d edited both of the books being released but, now I considered it, the idea of just settling in for a few hours seemed very appealing. The others headed off for the dealer room, determined to grab some bargains first. I went back to my hotel room to fetch my wallet.

 

 

 

 

I’d fully intended rejoining my breakfast buddies because there was a book I needed to buy, but on the way there I caught sight of Leila Abu El Hawa in the courtyard. I’d spotted her in passing on Friday; the slash of pink hair makes her instantly recognisable, even from a distance. Leila has always been warm, welcoming and chatty. She’s one of my favourite people, though we rarely get a chance to talk properly. It looked peaceful out there. Sunny. Pleasant. Rather than risk bankruptcy in the dealer’s room, I pushed through the glass doors and stepped out into the Gorgon’s realm. A profusion of bronze statues cluttered the courtyard. Hounds and lions prowled, insects froze, cocking an eye at the stranger. A giant Galapagos tortoise ignored us all, browsing casually at the shrubbery instead. Roman soldiers peered suspiciously. Nymphs showered. I must be getting jaded because I took all of this in my stride, flumped down in a garden chair and said wotcha. Leila introduced me to a fella called Kevin McVeigh (who was a tiny beard aficionado like me) and the three of us whiled away the time in chilled conversation. It was just what I needed.

 

On my way to the launches I made a quick raid into the dealer’s room (because of course I did), snagging a copy of Stephen Volk’s ‘Dark Master’s Trilogy.’ It was one of only three books I’d given myself permission to buy— and yes, before you say it, I know. Now listen, if a trilogy is presented in a single volume then it only counts as one book. I checked. I accidentally bought the Alchemy Press Book of Horrors as well because I’d got chatting to Mike Chinn, and Pete Coleborn and Jan Edwards happened to be right there, you know, selling books, and they were nice enough to spend time talking to me so now I’m broke and I don’t want to talk about it any more.

This is why I shouldn’t be allowed to leave the house unsupervised. Or have a bank card. Or talk to people.

I grabbed my purchases and fled in entirely the wrong direction, strolling casually back within the space of a minute as though I’d known all along which way to go. (Classic Dion. Suave.) The launches took place in The Jubilee Room, which was pretty damned massive. I’d guess it’s where the hotel holds banquets or ballroom dances, if such things still occur. Maybe it’s just bingo and orgies these day, who knows? I quickly found a seat at a table with Jim McLeod of Ginger Nuts of Horror fame, Mark West, Kit Power, sinister misters Bradshaw and Park, moob-crusher Fahey and— oh God, I don’t even know any more. I was so tired. The room started filling up, despite the size. I guess the brochures had become available by now, or else word had simply gotten around. There was coffee, I do remember that. I’d just been stung £1.50 for a tepid cup just outside the dealers room but it was free here at the launches. I needed some. I needed more. I wanted to drown in the stuff.

 

 

(Horrific Tales launch.)

 

Graeme Reynolds of Horrific Tales kicked off proceedings, introducing Thana Niveau and Paul Melhuish to their quite-sizeable audience. I was excited to see this, as I’d had a hand in both of their books. Thana’s reading from ‘The House of Frozen Screams’ was succinct but chilling. It raised hairs. Paul chose a longer passage from ‘High Cross’ and it too seemed to have the desired effect. Both books sold well on the day. Next up was Peter Mark May of Hersham Horror. He’s a publisher I’m not overly familiar with, though I had snagged Phil Sloman’s corking novella ‘Becoming David’ from him last year. Money’s too tight to mention so I held off getting any more here, but I liked what I heard about the books. I was particularly taken by Steve Lockley’s reading from ‘Winterlong’, which he co-wrote with Steven Savile. It seemed to have as its protagonist an old man with an apparently violent and shady past, rotting away in a nursing home. Something about the style and the setting just grabbed me. One to snag in the future, methinks. It was around this time Andrew David Barker joined us at the table. He’s one hell of a writer and a short-film director too. I may have fan-boyed just a smidge.

 

Next up was Steve Shaw with his Black Shuck Books. For the past couple of years he’s been building a strong reputation, collecting together some of the best new writers in a series of stylish, hardback anthologies called great British Horror. Authors have started approaching him to be in them, so he must be doing something right. This year saw the release of volume 3: For Those In Peril. The damned things sold themselves. One leapt into my hands; I swear I didn’t mean to buy it. Honest, guv… Colleen Anderson was on hand next, with her ‘Body of Work’ – a Frankenstinian ‘stitchery of tales’ encompassing the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. It sounded pretty cool. Finally we came to the pièce de résistance: John Llewelyn Probert performing an extract from ‘The Last Temptation of Dr Valentine.’ John is an exceptional teller of tales and a magnificent showman. His readings are a joy to behold. I dare say some of you were there, but for the rest of you – well, let me try to embed the video footage…

 

In addition to this single volume release, Steve also unveiled a beautiful limited-edition hardcover of the trilogy. I managed to snag the very last copy. Joy!

 

That took us up to 2pm so I’d started to get a little hangry again. Not as bad as on Friday, but I needed food and I needed it now. My friend, the right honourable C.C. Adams (AC, EMT, DFOH*) was right with me on that score. That boy needs meat like a beaver needs wood— Wait, that came out wrong. Never mind. Anyway, I left the poor devil in the lurch for a few minutes while I dropped off my purchases in my hotel room. I bumped into Stewart Hotson in the corridor on the way back. We have mutual friends in common but we’ve never quite managed to have a proper conversation. He’s a smashing fella though. Kindly eyes, a lunatic smile, and devastating with a sword. We had a brief but enthusiastic chat which I hope to resume in the not-too-distant future. My belly was starting to rattle at the old rib-cage by this time, so I said my goodbyes and shot off. I met C.C. and Colleen back in the Jubilee and we headed off into town, grabbing Terry Grimwood, Lin, and Steve Harris on the way. We ended up at The Old Harkers Arms, a gorgeous old pub located by the canal.

 

(Colleen Anderson poses with C.C. Adams *Avowed Carnivore, Eerie Moob-Twitcher, Dedicated Follower Of Horror.)

 

We ate, we laughed, and as I looked around me, I started to realise that I’d found my groove. I knew none of these folks particularly well as individuals, but I felt completely at ease in their company. Little collisions of life over time, stray comments on social media, a shared experience or two at conventions, and suddenly these had become my people, just as I had become theirs. It felt good. Really good. I ambled back to my hotel room afterwards because I was absolutely hanging. I figured if I didn’t catch up on my sleep now, I’d never be able to face a full evening of socialising. The old Dion might have been relieved at the thought and probably hid in his room with a book, but what did he know? He wouldn’t have had the guts to go to these events in the first place, let alone get up on stage and act like he belonged there. Funny how we grow and change. Pretty bloody awesome really. So I snatched an hour, maybe an hour and a half of sleep, and then I woke up buzzing. I was in the zone and ready for a damned good night out with my friends. I grabbed another shower and headed out into the world.

 

FantasyCon 2018. Friday. In the headlights.

I’d had a late night playing darts for the local team. We didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory, so I was a little tired and a little blue come Friday morning. I ended up missing my train by a single minute – an inauspicious beginning perhaps, but one that didn’t worry me overmuch. Perhaps I hadn’t twigged that all the big stuff was happening today, in just a few short hours. Anyway, I used the time to start pulling together some preliminary notes for my panels later on, trying to develop my thoughts beyond simple examples. I’ve seen enough panels over the past 4 years to know how these things roll but this would be my first time as ‘expert’ instead of audience. Trepidatious times, but exciting too.

It’s been a struggle but I’ve started to get pretty good at battening down my anxieties in conventions. Enough to push myself forward as a panel guest at any rate. Still, it was wonderful to feel the rib-crushing bear hug of C.C. Adams just minutes after arriving in Chester. One hell of a welcome! He was leaving the con hotel with Benedict Jones in search of lunch. I meant to join them but sadly it wasn’t to be. I needed to ditch the luggage first and their hunger was beyond raging. Instead of fretting too much, I checked into my own hotel then made my way to the convention. The hotel was a vast Victorian hulk, slap-bang opposite the station. It was imposing but beautiful in its own way. The décor was…fulsome. There weren’t many people around but I did recognise the lovely Sue Bolton, who joined me for a spot of lunch and a gentle chat.

During the course of the early afternoon I had snippets of conversation and banter with Priya Sharma, Laura and Rob Mauro, Georgina Bruce, Jim McLeod, Charlotte Bond, Ross Warren, Lisa Childs, Eric Steele, Steven Toase, and Andrew Knighton – to name but a few. The place was crowded and the bubbling joy of tribal reconnection rendered it all a bit of a wild blur. For me it was all about the hugs— and I’ve got to tell you, each and every one was healing and heartening for a fella still haunted by childhood exclusion. There’s nothing quite so powerful as a hug to communicate that sense of belonging. Anyway, on with the show.

 

(Lovable fools, all)

I’d already worked out my ‘must-do’ schedule on the train, so I knew where I needed to be and when. First up was a panel on blogging. I figured this could be pretty useful considering – you know – the thing you’re reading. I got a little lost trying to find the room, which was tucked away down a long corridor, but I found the place in the end. The panel was ably moderated by Kit Power, who knocked it out of the park. His questions were incisive and inclusive and he was genuinely curious as to what each of them thought about the subject, so the rapport with his guests felt real. Kate Coe was bubbly and open about her experiences; Micah Yongo was wry and thoughtful; Alasdair Stuart was charming, funny, and wise. All in all it was a good, articulate panel.

Immediately afterwards I had to dash around the corner for my first panel as a guest. This was on the subject of The Elderly Guard – a look at how older and aged people are represented in fantasy. I confess it wasn’t a subject I was immediately drawn to, but I am kind of hitting middle age now, and I could see a number of angles from which I could approach the topic. The panel was moderated by the sharp-minded Charlotte Bond, and we were joined by authors Mark A. Latham and R.B. Watkinson, as well as David Stokes, publisher at Guardbridge Books. We weren’t massively well attended, but I still felt like a rabbit in the headlights at first. There were stacks of things I wanted to say but I never quite found a way to work them in. Over-preparation, perhaps. I felt as though it had gone pretty well though, by the time it ended. Nobody made any dreadful howlers, the audience didn’t fall asleep or throw rotten fruit, and I started to feel I was okay to be there. Permitted. It felt like an important step.

I’d managed pretty well up to now, but I was starting to feel the sweats. I was still in my travelling clothes and the next panel was The Big One for me – Shared Worlds in the main panel room. Time was short but I decided to shower and change quick. I needed to feel fresh and professional.

Don’t panic, Dion. Breathe. No time to fret. Get going.

I went.

(Shared Worlds Panel – photo by Annie Czajkowski)

I met up with the moderator, Cheryl Morgan, outside the main panel room, also known as ‘The Victoria Room.’ She was chatting amiably to Gavin Smith. We were soon joined by His Imperial Spider-Majesty, Adrian Tchaikovsky (and his lovely wife, Annie). The previous panel came to a close and the doors opened, revealing a massive room – three times the size of the one I’d been in for The Elderly Guard. Ulp. People left and we stepped inside. This was a huge deal for me because it afforded the opportunity to talk publicly and at some length about This Twisted Earth, my pet project. I wish there had been more of an audience come to see us – particularly as Adrian was one of the guests of honour – but it seems that many panels suffered in this way on Friday. Printer troubles left the convention with no brochures, so most people didn’t know what was on, or indeed where.

Still, it was an enjoyable panel. It was a particular treat for me to share the stage with Adrian, a writer whose work I hugely admire, and who’d provided me with a brilliant story for my first Twisted Earth anthology. Cheryl was friendly, professional, focused. Pauline Kirk had interesting experiences to relate in terms of sharing a gestalt authorial identity with her daughter. Gavin kept gently ribbing Adrian about broken promises of work in his Shadows of the Apt world. It was awkwardly hilarious because his delivery was so deadpan. I was deeply gratified to be supported in the audience by Philip Ambler, who encouraged me to get into editing in the first place. It was also rather lovely to be approached and congratulated by somebody I didn’t know – a lady called Alexandra Peel. As it turned out, she’d submitted a story for This Twisted Earth way back when, and she wanted to come and say hi.

I had a bit of a wobble after Shared Worlds – a mixture of adrenaline, relief, and the knowledge that I still had a public reading to get through – which left me twitchy and somewhat hangry. I all-but dragged Phil across the road to ‘The Town Crier’ for a nosh-up and a cheeky pint. Bless him, he was very patient with me. A true friend. After that we spent a little time catching up with Graeme and Charlotte Reynolds, Steve Shaw, James Everington, Maura McHugh, Duncan Bradshaw, Andrew Freudenberg and Justin Park. Tracy Fahey groped my moob from behind which made me squawk like a chicken. Hilarity ensued. Eventually I had to say my goodbyes and head off looking for the Reading Room, book in hand. My public awaited (ahem).

 

(Fun tale, outrageous Welsh accents – photo by David R Stokes)

 

The readings went okay. Low attendance, but I expected as much for 9pm. The bar called to everyone. Hell, it called to me. I was conscious of time throughout because the previous session had overrun a little. I met Andrew Hook there, who did a good smattering of readings from his slipstream historical stories, based on the lives of Hollywood legends. I’ve started learning a little about the people he mentioned via the excellent podcast ‘You Must Remember This,’ so I was enthralled. I’d like to read his stories in full. I was up next, with a spirited reading from ‘The Ghost in Michelle’ by Matt Lewis. (Hilarious story, great anthology. You might have heard of it – ‘This Twisted Earth.’ #BuyMyBooks) I ended up cutting myself short by a few pages, hoping that the saved time would allow us a decent Q&A session. Regretted it afterwards.

The rest of the night sort of blurs. I didn’t feel like joining The Crusty Exterior boys at the disco – too hot, too cramped, too loud – so I sought out the Sinister Horror Company and friends in the hotel bar instead. Freud and I hunkered down in the comfy leather seats and we were soon joined by Simon Clarke, John Travis, (the super-loved-up) Steve Harris and Linda Nagle, amongst others. I’ve been wanting to meet Lin for ages now as we both do the same job and we’re pals on FaceBook. I missed her at EdgeLit despite sitting right behind her in a panel, and its become a running joke now that I just can’t see her (despite the truly vivid red hair). Drink was drunk, banter and burping occurred. Oh, and I learned that Duncan! Duncan! Duncan…smells! (The old ones are the best). I ended up hitting the sack around 1.30am feeling pretty damned happy, pretty damned proud and pretty damned tired.

 

Dion Winton-polak sharing good times at Fantasy Con 2018
(Good times)

New horizons.


Last time I was here I talked about how I need to leave my comfort zone. Well, that’ll be happening sooner than you might have expected. Those who really know me are aware that I’m anything but comfortable in a room full of people, and I have a damned hard time pushing myself forward at the best of times. Well that’s got to change if I’m going to get anywhere in this job, so I took steps recently to face some of my fears in order to seek new opportunities.

I will actually be making my Panel debut at FantasyCon in Chester this week. Two panels, in fact – and I’ll be doing a reading as well. (I love reading to people!)

For those of you interested, all the events will be taking place on Friday 19th October.

The first panel is called ‘The Elderly Guard’ and will be moderated by the wonderful Charlotte Bond. It deals with how middle-aged and elderly people are (or could, or perhaps should be) handled in fantastical fiction, and why that representation matters. This discussion will begin in Panel Room 1 at 4.30pm.

My second panel is called ‘Shared Worlds’ and will be moderated by the redoubtable Cheryl Morgan. I will of course be talking about my experiences wrangling This Twisted Earth into existence, and the other panellists will relate their own tales of writing in or creating their own particular shared worlds. This will be in the same place, Panel Room 1, at the later time of 6pm.

Should you wish to support my solo performance (complete with accents), you can find me in the Reading Room at 9pm with the other Slipstream Fiction folks. I’ll be reading from a great story called ‘The Ghost In Michelle.’

I hope to see some of you there!

On the wind.

There come certain points in every career where a person gets a bit too confident, a bit too settled. Gone are the days of winging it. They know their job, they’ve become proficient at it. Little routines have built up to make things easier and all the humiliating mistakes are in the past where they belong, sage lessons but distant milestones. And then a choice is made. It’s not always conscious, not always immediate, but it happens sooner than you’d think.

To circle, or to soar.

Circling is comfortable, predictable. The work comes in, the work gets done, and on and on. Regrettably, my days are spent circling at the moment. In my ‘proper’ job, that is. I just…drift. My heart belongs elsewhere. You might say it belongs to you.

When I work on an editing project, everything becomes intense, focused, full of meaning. My eyes are eagle-sharp, my mind burns with energy. I taste the words, scent the meaning, feel the themes and the arcs on the breeze – and then I dive!

I find editing a deeply satisfying way to spend my time, for reasons I can only obliquely sense. I find them hard to convey. It feels…right. It’s not just what I do, it’s who I am, and that’s why I want to make this my full-time career.

That’s why I want to soar.

So I’ve been working hard at The Fine-toothed Comb, squeezing in edits in the mornings before the old 9-5 starts. Staying up pretty late, too. Days off are not really off. Holidays are rarely just that. But I’ve started to build up a decent reputation over the last couple of years and I’m very happy with my testimonials. I’m often tired but I’m also fulfilled in ways I never dreamed possible. As time goes on I intend to reduce my day-job hours further so I can spend more time doing what I love. That’ll take a significant leap of faith, so I need to prove to myself I can match my income, or else achieve stability with a small decrease.

I’ve got some regular clients, sure. My face is getting to be pretty well-known on the scene (though God help me if I ever decide to shave this silly facial fuzz off). But I could end up circling here forever if I’m not careful, scraping a bare-bones living but always a meal or two away from starvation.

It’s time to do something about that. Time to leave the comfort zone.

This Twisted Earth.

 

What is This Twisted Earth?

This Twisted Earth is a concept I’ve been playing around with since childhood. It is a setting for stories, a shared-world sandbox to play in, and a platform to spring from. An elevator pitch for the concept is all but impossible, given the scope, but the following section from the world bible should give you the idea:

‘It imagines a version of our planet in which past, present, and future have become utterly tangled up.

Cultures have been brought together, clashing, subsuming, changing, and adapting. Is technology always the deciding factor? How much of the infrastructure still exists? Who has the will and the skill to survive? Imagine arriving in this world, torn from all you know. Would you try to find out what happened? Try to fix it? Or would you carve out a new existence?

Remember, others will have gotten here centuries – hell, possibly millions of years – before. Their descendants roam the planet now, having never known anything different. They have their place, their history, and their own fundamental right to existence.

All the World is your stage, and all of Time, too. What can you show us that we have not seen before? What wrinkles of history can you tantalise us with? This is an unparalleled chance for you to explore your cultural and narrative interests, to blend your genres, to create a genuinely shared world.’

Adrian Tchaikovsky reading from his T.T.E. story, ‘The Electric Eye of the Silver God’ at F’Con 2016.

We already have an anthology of short stories in print, featuring an original piece by the wonderful Adrian Tchaikovsky. I am currently hard at work with some of the other authors, pulling together a set of novellas to expand on the world.

How can I get involved?

Although the next phase of publishing in place, two follow-up anthologies await – Twisted Histories and Twisted Tomorrows. I have one or two stories kept to the side from an earlier iteration but I am continuing with my Open Submissions policy. I want people from different cultures all across the world to be sending in stories. Think you’ve got what it takes to get into one of the anthologies? I’d love to read your work. Got a novella you want to pitch, or even a novel? I’m all ears.

If you’re on Facebook I would thoroughly recommend joining our group – This Twisted Earth – and get some conversations started. The World Bible is up there for all of the most essential information. We also have sub-groups where you can talk turkey about world mechanics, or to give you an unjudgemental space for creative play. If you don’t do the Facebook thing, don’t worry. I won’t exclude you. Let me know your details and I can email the World Bible out to you. I have a goal to get it all shifted here in the future but my web-fu isn’t quite up to that yet. Bear with me…

In addition to the above, I’m happy to take pitches for other media. Our world is vast and the possibilities for story-telling within it are endless. Think you could pen a radio drama? Talk to me about it. More graphically inclined? I’d love to get some comics out there. TV? Film? It’s early days yet, but hell yeah. Let’s get talking.

Almost famous. Waterstone’s in Aber.

Where can I get hold of a copy?

You might like the idea of all this but still not really know what to expect. It might be wise for you to read our first anthology to get a better sense of the kinds of stories and the sheer variety of styles you might employ.

I would suggest ordering a copy at your local public library, if you have access to one. It would be practically free of charge to you and of course it would give many more people a chance to discover our world. They’ll need the ISBN and publisher, so here it is – ISBN 2370000388315. The publisher is Six Minutes To Midnight.

Of course, if you want to be super lovely you can buy it direct from me at FantasyCon this year. Ping me a message in advance and I’ll bring you a copy. There will even be one or two of the authors around to sign it for you!

Want to use up that Amazon voucher or get your money’s worth from Prime? Click the link.

Prefer a Kindle version for your convenience? Go for it.

Thank you.

Malcolm Devlin

You will grow into them - by Malcolm Devlin - available on Amazon

You Will Grow Into Them

Role: Line edit
Written by: Malcolm Devlin
Published by: Unsung Stories
Purchase at: Unsung Stories or Amazon

The world is a far stranger place than we give it credit for. There, in the things

we think familiar, safe, are certain aspects. Our fears and desires given form. Moments that defy explanation. Shadows in our home.

In Malcolm Devlin’s debut collection, change is the only constant. Across ten stories he tackles the unease of transformation, growth and change in a world where horror seeps from the everyday. Childhood anxieties manifest as debased and degraded doppelgängers, fungal blooms are harvested from the backs of dancers and London lycanthropes become the new social pariahs. The demons we carry inside us are very real indeed, but You Will Grow Into Them.

Taking weird fiction and horror and bending them into strange and wondrous new shapes, You Will Grow Into Them follows, in the grand tradition of Aickman, Ligotti and Vandermeer, reminding us that the ordinary world is a much stranger place than it seems.

The Rot

Role: Proofread
Written by:  Paul Kane
Published by:  Horrific Tales Publishing
Purchase at:  Amazon

the-rot-coverSomething has happened to the world. People are going mad, the very foundations of society are crumbling… Only Adam Keller, testing a prototype environment suit, apparently remains safe – but for how long? Can anything be done, can any of it be reversed, before everything goes to Rot?

The latest post-apocalyptic tale from award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane (the sellout Hooded ManThe DiseaseThe End of the End) presents a nightmarish vision of a possible future, blending social commentary with page-turning action. This is one that fans of The Road and The Walking Dead will really not want to miss!

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