Wow, it’s been a while and I have a lot of news to cover in one post (which is what happens after an almost two year hiatus, I guess).
So, first and foremost, book-related news. As most of you will know by now, Dreamspinner Press, who have published virtually all of my backlist, are facing significant financial difficulties. With that in mind, I have requested the rights back for all but one of my books. The Reawakening trilogy, my three Christmas novellas (Gaudete, The Holly Groweth Green, and The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock), my ghost stories Spindrift and A Frost of Cares, my Valentines Day novella Aunt Adeline’s Bequest, and my standalone fantasy novella Lord Heliodor’s Retirement are all due to come down from the Dreamspinner and DSPP websites on October 1st and will start to disappear from other vendors after that. The five anthologies I was part of with Dreamspinner and DSPP have already gone out of print.
So is the news all bad?
No. I’m planning to rerelease all these books over the next few years. As most of you know, I teach full time and the work involved in self-publishing is not going to happen in term time. I’ve worked out a rough schedule for the school holidays for the foreseeable future so I can gradually get these books back out there. I’ve already rereleased four of the short stories I wrote in my early years with Dreamspinner. I have a final release from DSPP, the supernatural mystery Something Wicked This Way Comes due out on October 29. I’m in the process of revising a Christmas novella, and have two WIPs, a light-hearted contemporary fantasy with a nerdy dragon (just because you have a Viking hoard in the vault, it doesn’t mean you can’t also have Doctor Who memorabilia in the penthouse, right?) and a ghost novella set in Cornwall.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is the next big excitement. This has been a long time coming and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who cheered me on, beta read, or kept bugging me about it even when I was ready to give up. I’m aware I haven’t been very good about getting back to all of you and I’m very sorry–life has steamrollered me a lot over the last couple of years.
The book is set in the Scottish Borders, where a wartime orphanage was once evacuated to a grim old house, Vainguard. The story of what happened next has stayed a secret for decades. Even the charity that once run the orphanage has evolved, turning into a modern children’s charity. When the last owner of Vainguard leaves the dilapidated old house to the now London-based charity, Leon is sent north to assess its use. There he starts to discover not only the terrible truth behind what happened in the war, but its connection to his own family tragedy and a string of deaths that continues into the modern day.
There’s some dark themes in here, so trigger warnings for historic child abuse, and bereavement (loss of both parents and a child).
The four short stories I’ve rereleased are Granddad’s Cup of Tea, Philip Collyer vs. the Cola Thief, The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song, and Humming a Different Tune. Rather than weigh this post down with even more links, I’m going to point you towards my short stories page which has information and links for all four.
For those of you who signed up to my newsletter, I must apologise. In a spirit of great optimism, I went to log in to it this week, only to discover that it had been deleted because disuse (oops). I’ll be trying to sort that out over the next few weeks, but the best place for updates at the moment is my Facebook group, Here Be Dragons.
So, what have I been doing whilst I’ve been quiet?
Both too much and too little. Three years ago, I took on a new role at work. It was a lot of extra responsibility and the amount of support I was given dwindled steadily over time, to the extent that when my second in command took on another role, the powers that be refused to replace her. A job I was determined to do well at gradually sucked up all my energy and both my physical and emotional health suffered for it. Every passing cold turned into full blown flu. I weigh almost twice my ideal BMI. All my creativity was poured into solving other people’s problems. I was arriving at work at 6:45, after an hour’s commute, working until 17:30 and still never ever on top of anything. I scraped Something Wicked out of my brain a few lines at a time, but after that my creativity had to go on the back burner. I apologised above and I’ll do it here again. I’m sorry for anything I didn’t get to. No one great crisis was tearing my life apart, but I was running on empty for too long and I don’t even have a list of all the things I missed or let slide. Sorry.
I asked to step down from that role in May. The change didn’t take effect until September, but by then I’d spent the summer holidays trying to come up for a plan to cope with the DSP mess. It’s a month into term now and very slowly I can feel the weight lifting from my shoulders. I’ve written on the bus three days this week. My imagination is stirring and I’m sleeping better. To my surprise, rather than feeling heartbroken by the DSP mess, I am galvanised (hey, I may yet find the energy to get poor Kastrian off the desert island I marooned him on back in 2016 after finishing the first draft of Recovery. Poor bastard must be sick of talking to lizards by now).
What else have I done since I last posted? I’ve welcomed a new nephew and niece to the world. I’ve helped my parents move from the village next to mine across the country to be closer to my sister and those babies (and their three big brothers). I’ve roamed the rain-soaked fields of mid-Wales in search of dragons. I’ve seen my work team through the most challenging government-imposed curriculum changes in over a generation and led the effort to turn our initial bad results round. I’ve put a book on indefinite hold because the central tragedy was too close to a friend’s personal nightmare. I’ve read a hell of a lot of books. I’ve bought a lot of silly t-shirts and several pairs of really awesome shoes (and made myself promise not to buy any more until I finish a book because I’m no longer making enough money to have a sparkly shoes budget. Alas.). I’ve watched Tower Bridge open (a lifelong ambition made all the more delightful by my older nephews’ ecstatic glee as they watched in with me). I learned a few more of my own limits and I’ve learned how not to let myself be railroaded by other people’s expectations.
I’ve been puked on in a planetarium by a six month old by the light of a auditorium wide projected moon.
I’ve found new friends out of the collapse of a publisher I once trusted.
I’ve written the first few chapters of a book where the banter makes me giggle more than anything I’ve written in years.
I’ve chosen to abandon the familiar grind in favour of the unknown.
All change. Let’s see where we go now.