A year ago today I hit publish on The Jack Hansard Series: Season One, the genre-bending episodic fantasy I’d first conceptualised five years before. The exploits of this occult salesman and his cantankerous coblyn sidekick have become very close to my heart.
It has taken considerably less time to produce the book’s sequel, bolstered in no small part by the confidence I gained in finally getting the first one ‘out there’. So it’s with a great deal of pleasure that I can announce The Jack Hansard Series: Season Two is now available for pre-order everywhere ebooks are sold!
The paperback version will become available for pre-order some time in December, once the book cover design has been finalised. Follow me on social media or my newsletter to receive updates and sneak previews of the cover art as it develops.
I’m also running a flash sale to celebrate this milestone
For a limited time only you can pick up The Jack Hansard Series: Season One for just 99p. Grab your copy here!
My short story The Hub is also FREE to download from most retailers for a very short time. Find it here.
Thank you for your support over the past twelve months, and here’s to more exciting times ahead!
During our usual short British Summer earlier this year – that very briefly sunny bit – I took a holiday down to Cornwall with my family. I had the pleasure of visiting some locations that feature in The Jack Hansard Series, and in this post I’d like to shine a spotlight on one in particular: Trethevy Quoit.
First, for those who might not know much about Cornwall: this county occupies the most southwestern tip of England and is known particularly for its old tin mining industry, its port towns and beautiful beaches, and the vast number of prehistoric monuments that litter its moorland landscape. And, of course, the traditional Cornish Pasty.
Cornwall is also the home of knockers, a type of mining spirit which will be very familiar to Jack Hansard readers. It’s during an adventure with the knockers in Season Two that Jack and Ang are sent to the myserious portal tomb known as Trethevy Quoit.
Trethevy Quoit can be found in the hamlet of Tremar Coombe on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Situated in a field just behind some houses, it’s a striking mark on the landscape. This type of structure is known as a ‘dolmen’ or portal tomb, where a horizontal capstone is supported by two or more vertical stones. Trethevy Quoit is at least 4500 years old, and may have been built as a grave and/or a place of worship. (The truth is, we don’t actually know for certain what it was built for, but human remains have been found in similar dolmens.)
‘Trethevy’ is apparently Cornish for ‘place of the graves’, while the ‘Quoit’ in the name refers to a traditional throwing game – because local legend says that Trethevy Quoit was made by competing giants who hurled the stones together. This is why some people also call it ‘The Giant’s House’.
I owe a great deal of thanks to a local chap called Clifford who happened to be passing while I was examining the tomb. He turned out to be a wealth of information and theories about the dolmen and how it was built.
In the photo above, we’re looking at the entrance. The small hole to my right leads to what is probably a burial chamber – you’d have to crawl inside. The space where I’m standing may have been an antechamber. Clifford was able to show me the grooves in the rock that suggested a massive stone may have once acted as a ‘door’ to this section: regularly pushed aside to allow access for special occasions, perhaps. It’s likely that dolmens could have served a ritual purpose, maybe a focal point bringing the community together over the changing seasons.
And that hole in the capstone, to the top right? Total mystery. No one knows what it was for. You’d assume some kind of astronomical purpose, but Clifford tells me there are no significant constellations visible through it, at any time of the year. But who are we to say what was ‘significant’ to people living thousands of years ago?
It also crossed my mind that the hole may have been placed to frame something which simply isn’t in the sky any more. Stars die. Land shifts. Or perhaps a comet was passing by in their time, and hasn’t returned to the earth since.
At the back, it appears that the rear stone has fallen into the tomb, and this may be why the roof is now so steeply slanted. Clifford’s theory is that the tomb was actually built this way, with the rear sloped stone acting as a second entrance. While I appreciated the logic in his explanation, I’m more inclined to side with the English Heritage interpretation that the stone was originally standing to form a back wall. Vandalism or simple collapse are likely reasons for its current position.
Finally, Clifford drew my attention to the capstone itself. It so happens that a mineral called mica naturally occurs in different concentrations in the granite of the local area. Mica is a reflective material that can give the stone a sparkly appearance. And, to my great fortune, it was a sunny day.
My goodness, how that stone sparkled.
It’s easy to imagine why the builders of Trethevy Quoit chose this specific stone to cap their dolmen. This structure would have dominated its local landscape, provided a shining beacon to those traversing the nearby hills. If you’ve ever been up a hill and caught a sudden sharp glint from a building in the distance – that’s how I imagine Trethevy Quoit would first appear to the ancient traveller.
One detail that throws a question mark over this is whether Trethevy Quoit was completely buried inside a mount or not. A low mound of earth is still evident around the bottom of the structure, and certainly other types of dolmen tombs are thought to have been covered by a mound – the soil has simply eroded away over time, leaving behind the stone bones of the inner structure. But perhaps its feasible that a capstone like this one would have been left visible? As far as I’m aware, we have no real way of knowing for sure how large Trethevy Quoit’s mound would have been.
I’m glad I was able to visit this megalith in person – especially as it gave me a lot of new details to work into the Jack Hansard episode in which it appears. If you’ve read the beta episode over on Wattpad, you’ll know this location acts as the portal to a fairy glen where an ancient entity has been slumbering.
We also managed to fit in a trip to see The Hurlers and the Cheesewring during our trip – for a few more photos and snippets of Cornish folklore, check out the newsletter I wrote about it back in June. I also visited Cornwall’s famous Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which I imagine will be the subject of a future blog post!
Have you visited any of Cornwall’s ancient monuments? Share your stories about them below!
When an app developer accidentally creates a maliciously benevolent social media network, only her girlfriend can save her from what she’s brought to life…
Happy days! I was incredibly pleased to release my short story The Hub as an ebook last week. This story was first published by the wonderful folks at Thunderbird Studios in their anthology The San Cicaro Experience – a weird and dark anthology exploring the titular urban fantasy location.
The Hub ended up straddling the line between sci-fi and urban fantasy with its technological menace, but ultimately it’s a story about love and compromise.
It’s now available for just $0.99 from all the main retailers: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Apple, etc. Universal shop link below. 😄
In sunny San Cicaro, a new app is dominating the city’s streets – and its people.
Max loves her city, and believes everyone deserves to enjoy its hidden treasures. So when she launches the SC Hub, a new social app to connect people and places, she couldn’t be happier with its blazing overnight success. But her reclusive girlfriend, Ellie, can’t help but worry about the magnetic pull the app is having on its creator, and the strange occurrences in town that seem linked to it.
Are people driving the app… or the other way round?
Story submissions to magazines, anthologies, and competitions
Number of Submissions: 23
Submissions Declined: 15
Submissions Accepted: 1
Still under review: 7
Wheeeeeee! We’re only halfway through the year, and I’ve already bested last year’s results (which, let’s face it, were pretty abysmal anyway). I expect to slow down on submissions towards the end of this year, but only because I hope to be extra-focused on handling edits and the publishing process for Season Two of The Jack Hansard Series.
The Accepted story on this list is a flash triptych called ‘Denizens of the Deep Dark’. It will feature in the upcoming July issue of Copperfield Review Quarterly.
Why are my submissions going better this year?
Having been at this for a while now, I’ve built up a larger catalogue of short stories to send out. This means I can have several different pieces out at the same time, rather than waiting for just one to be assessed by a publisher before being able to submit it again. I’m also quite proud of some of my newer works (tangible evidence of improvement in my writing) and this confidence keeps me eager to edit and resubmit after every rejection.
I’ve also been helped by some very fast turnarounds from a few journals. While it can be disheartening to receive a rejection in less than 48 hours (24 hours, in one instance!) this does then immediately free up the story for submission elsewhere, as many of these publishers don’t allow you to submit to multiple markets at once.
An extra note is that I’ve broadened my horizons this year by making a return to poetry, which I’ve dabbled in on-and-off over the years. There are just two poems of which I’m proud enough to have included in the above submissions list, and one which I’ve entered into a humour competition that will announce winners in August. Let’s see how we go!
How are your submissions going?
Do you keep track of your submission stats like this? How’s this year shaping up compared to last year? Tell me all about it, I’d love to know! We can celebrate our wins and commiserate our rejections together. And if you’re yet to submit anything, then I’m here to shout you some friendly words of encouragement.
Just wanted to share this review of what sounds like a cracking book series – it’s gone straight onto my must-read list. If you enjoy rural contemporary fantasy steeped in British folklore, take a look!
Juliet McKenna is an author I’d been meaning to read forever. When good bookfriends expressed quiet but fervent enthusiasm for The Green Man’s Heir, I decided it was time to take the plunge. Today I’m here to be your good bookfriend and express my own quiet but fervent enthusiasm for this contemporary folkloric fantasy series. You should take the plunge, the water is fine if full of terrifying naiads and nixes.
Earlier this week I stumbled across a blog post about ‘Wyrd and Wonder’ : a month-long online event celebrating fantasy in all its forms. Hosted by the folks at onemore.org, the Wyrd and Wonder party straddles social media channels with blogs, reviews, streams, games, and a shared love of all things fantasy!
Regular readers know I need a bit of a butt-kicking to update my blog (I’m normally a ‘one post a month’ kinda gal) but this is exactly the kind of motivational event I can get behind. So I’ve joined the Wyrd and Wonder party and planned a few (small) activities of my own to take part throughout the month of May. My list is definitely small fry compared to others (how do you all keep up with your TBRs?!) but I’m excited to have some goals to aim for!
My Quest Log:
Finish reading The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett. I started this book at the beginning of the year and was halfway through when… I put it down. For some reason. Maybe a few tiring nights from kiddo had sapped my energy, or I just had to get on with other stuff that evening. These days, unfinished books are like my forgotten cups of tea scattered around the house – not for lack of wanting to finish them. Something else just gets in the way. So I’m looking forward to finishing this final instalment in the Tiffany Aching series, and when I’ve completed it I’ll also have finally read every single Discworld novel. I’m still sad that there won’t be any more.
Read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s been on my TBR list for a loooong while. This month I’d like to read (and finish!!) the first book in this urban fantasy series and then maybe write a review post afterwards!
Buy a new indie fantasy book. I’ll pop this as a thread over on Twitter where peeps can pitch their own (or their favourite) fantasy book by an indie author, and I’ll pick at least one to buy and read for myself. I’m grateful to others who’ve posted these writers’ lifts/book lifts in the past and I’d love to try my own. If I’ve got time, I want to post my review of the chosen indie book this month as well.
Offers and such? I’m involved in some group fantasy book promotions this month. I’d like to support my writing community and help readers find new fantasy authors to fall in love with – I’ve put the current ones below as it doesn’t seem right to make them a separate post. There are some giveaways which start later in May as well. Would people be interested in a post just about free fantasy books…? They’ll be on Twitter, anyway. 😆
And of course, getting involved! I’ll read and follow as many Wyrd and Wonder posts as I can manage. I’d like to try answering some of the Challenge Prompts via Twitter or Instagram. The community looks really friendly and I’m excited to dip my toes in and meet you all.
Not gonna lie, I’m hoping this will jumpstart my reading habit again. Aiming for two and half books in a month is pitiful compared to what I used to go through, but at least it’s something. 😂
If you’re looking for something new to read yourself, check out these fantasy book sales for ideas. 👇
Time to dive in!
You can find out more about Wyrd and Wonder here, follow the hosts on Twitter here, and find posts on Instagram and elsewhere with the #WyrdandWonder hashtag. (Also check out this fab book bingo game they’ve created!)
If you’ve got plans for Wyrd and Wonder, or even just some cool fantasy titles on your TBR list, let us know below! 😊
I talk a lot about writing submissions and lately have had questions from friends about where I find these paid writing gigs – and how they might find their own. So I thought I’d share the resources I use the most, for anyone who might also be wondering how to find a home for their short stories.
Below is a mix of blogs and lists, some of which are geared just toward speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc) and others that encompass all genres. Take a look, and hopefully you’ll find a market you want to submit to!
A regularly updated blog which keeps abreast of opportunities in the industry. As the name suggests, The Horror Tree focuses on posting submissions calls for horror-themed writing, but does include entries from other speculative fiction genres as well. This is where I first heard about The San Cicaro Experience, an urban fantasy anthology which I submitted to and was published in last year,
At The Horror Tree you’ll mainly find open calls from journals and anthologies, and then the occasional competition and novel/novella opportunity. You’ll find a fair number of lower-paying markets here (often less than 4 cents a word) and many publications that might only pay an honorarium (such as $10 or less for a short story). But pro markets do pop up as well: regular calls for Fantasy Magazine and Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores are good examples.
I do think you’re more likely to come across opportunities here that you might not find elsewhere, and the themes are so varied and interesting that you have a higher chance of stumbling across one that makes you go, “YES. I want to create something for THIS.” (Recently I’ve seen calls for ‘found footage’ horror stories, ’31st century monsters’, and ‘mad queens’.) This is what makes The Horror Tree my favourite site to scroll for submissions.
Writer’s HQ is both a source of free writing resources and an organiser of British writing retreats on the cheap. They maintain a continually updated list of competition opportunities each month, and have recently changed their policy to only include listings that make an effort to be financially accessible to writers. I’m a massive fan of this approach. My personal policy is to not submit to publications that require an entry fee (the aim here is to make money…) though I’m not averse to supporting journals which provide the option of a donation or have a tip jar feature.
The folks at Writer’s HQ seem to have accessibility built into their attitude, and they make this whole business of writing feel achievable with their pragmatism and sense of humour. They also host their own weekly Flash Face-off contest (like a community writing exercise) and will pay you for blog posts on the writing process (currently closed to submissions, but worth keeping an eye on if this is your thing).
This one is a single static list compiled by speculative fiction author S.J.Budd. Unlike the ones listed above, these are not submission calls with specific themes or deadlines and are not (to my knowledge) regularly updated. It’s simply a great list of journals which (usually) accept unsolicted submissions. Being a writer of speculative fiction myself, it’s refreshing to see a list which encompasses simply ‘dark’ fiction, as this can range far and wide across fantasy, sci-fi, horror and beyond. I find similar lists on a singular genre under the speculative umbrella can be a bit limited for my purposes.
Like any static list, you will find that some publishers on this page have sadly gone out of business, or that submission windows are currently closed. But the high number of listings and the amount of info included next to each one makes this a really great resource to quickly scan and identify markets that might be the right fit for your work.
Submittable is really a submissions manager – many of the journals in those lists above will require you to upload your work via Submittable. You’ll need to register an account for this (don’t worry, it’s free). It’s quite useful in that it saves (and automatically fills in) your personal details, and you can create a cover letter template to save you writing out nearly the same thing each time. It also tracks your submissions so you can see which stories are currently in progress/accepted/declined.
Under the Discover tab is where you can actively search for opportunities. I’m pleased that it lets me filter by deadline and ‘No Fees’, but I admit to finding the search function a bit lacking. I don’t come here to seek out new markets very often – mainly because there are just SO MANY submission calls that’s it’s difficult to narrow down exactly what you might be looking for.
This is because Submittable opportunities encompass a really wide range of subjects – from applying for research grants and job vacancies (I recently discovered and applied for a job at a small press here actually; sadly didn’t get through) to entering competitions, submitting short stories to journals, and even whole novels to presses. There are opportunities for writers, artists, animators, musicians, journalists, and more… Basically, if you know anyone looking for anything in the creative sphere, Submittable isn’t a bad place to start. Play around with the search tags and filters, and eventually you’ll find something that fits your niche.
This one feels a bit nostalgic for me because it’s the list I’ve used for the longest time, but have neglected of late. Prizemagic concerns itself solely with writing competitions. The website looks quite dated now, but the listings are still regularly refreshed. Each entry has a note to say when it was added or last edited, which is very useful when considering those evergreen contests which roll around every year.
It’s also made extra-fun by the occasional humorous remark from the website’s owner, Michael Shenton, and I enjoy reading the little success stories from people who have written in to share their competition triumphs. The listings themselves contain more info than you’d find elsewhere, as the author takes pains to provide some context for what each contest is looking for in your entry.
I should also mention that this list is much more UK-centric than the ones above – which is BRILLIANT for British writers like me, who too often are mentally converting dollar amounts in our heads when weighing up fees and prizes.
Let us know if you found somewhere to submit your story from this list! And if you want to recommend other places to look for new writing opportunities, please do mention them in the comments.
I’d like to thank Nicole over at InkWell Spills for hosting me in an Author Spotlight this week. We covered how I ended up writing The Jack Hansard Series, my turning point in becoming a ‘professional’ author, and a few tips on how to see the value in your work and to make that crucial step towards a professional writing career. You’ll also find a wealth of free writing resources on her website.
Anybody else itching for a good old-fashioned craft market? I am!
If, like me, you delight in discovering new art, love to support independent businesses, and frankly just enjoy the simple fun of browsing unique and hand-made wares, then The Unfamiliar Bazaar is exactly the restorative tonic we’ve been waiting for.
Hosted by Amber Ankh Events, The Unfamiliar Bazaar in an online market taking place over 27th – 28th February. That’s right, doors open tomorrow! This year’s virtual venue is Facebook – you can join the event here or click the button below!
For those who may not have access to Facebook (or would like a sneaky-peak beforehand) I’m throwing a spotlight on a few of the Bazaar’s brilliant alternative traders so you can still be part of the fun. We can expect to see a variety of pagan wares, modern witchcraft necessities, spiritual art, amazing handcrafted gifts… a real plethora of peculiar products!
Here’s just a snapshot of what you’ll see at the Bazaar this weekend.
Colourful leatherwork and intricate designs from this specialist artisan shop. They take commissions for bespoke pieces as well.
“All our products are entirely stitched painstakingly and carefully by hand. Each tiny stitch is carefully crafted to bring you the very best and durable product made to last a lifetime.
For each of our bags over 300 individual holes have been punched and 300 stitches have been made. Each bag is dyed and sealed with a waterproof finish and lined with organic cotton in a beautiful blue and grey tartan fabric.
They are each a pleasure to make and a real labour of love.”
An intuitive artist selling a range of art prints and artistic gifts. Also offers Spiritual Guided Art Sessions delivered online or in-person.
“My art is full of love, imagination and pure healing energies and I share it with you from my soul . I have been creating one way or another since I was young, using all sorts of media. I have been lucky to be able to connect with the universal realms, creating from the Faye World, Angelic Kingdom, Animal Spirits, Ancestors, Nature Energies and so much more.”
A really friendly family atmosphere at this shop selling ‘pagan,witchy and Native American Indian themed goodies’!
“Hello and welcome to our little family-run stall, Bardware of Frog Lane. Consisting of myself, Carly; my dad (Grandad); and my daughter, Jazzy. We have an eclectic mix of everything from handmade wands and drum beaters made by my dad, to aura sprays and little bits made by myself and Jazzy. All created with love and good intentions.”
Beautiful designs by a folk-pagan artist. Buy them as originals, prints, cards, and painted on wooden totems!
“I am a Pagan / Nature Based artist from rural Derbyshire. I am inspired by the landscape, mythology and old stories from our beautiful islands. I specialise in Pagan Portraits but also love to paint trees and animal totems.”
In addition to amazing artists and cunning craftspeople, The Unfamiliar Bazaar is hosting extra events throughout the weekend! They include a discussion panel on Paganism in Lockdown, an evening guided meditation, and a number of intriguing interviews with interesting individuals – such as the lovely Adrienne Green, The Illuminator, who will be shedding light (pun intended) on her work with the Balance Procedure.
“I am Adrienne Green The Illuminator, Lighting up your true potential. My passion is to bring out the best in people using various skills sets. In particular The Balance Procedure: a groundbreaking new tool using our heart energy and aligning our emotions to our passions. Teaching people how to align to their passions and create the life they dream of.”
Adrienne is a complementary therapist offering Soul Centred Crystal Healing, Esoteric Healing, Ear Candling, Reflexology, Reiki – and is an advanced practitioner & Trainer in The Balance Procedure. You can find out more about her at https://www.facebook.com/adriennetheilluminator
And also… ME!
I come bearing freebies and folklore galore.
I’m giving away Episodes 1-3 of The Jack Hansard Series FREE to every attendee of The Unfamiliar Bazaar. Watch out for my posts over the weekend – I’ll be dropping short blasts of folklore knowledge in the group, and each one will contain a link to the free download.
I’ll also have signed copies of the paperback for sale, and some very nice art print postcards to accompany them. Woohoo! This is a mini-milestone for me. Practically my first book fair, right? 😉
Story submissions to magazines, anthologies, and competitions.
Number of Submissions: 14
Submissions Declined: 12
Submissions Accepted: 0
Still under review: 2
Dang. I was hoping to beat my previous score, but unfortunately I made 3 fewer submissions in 2020 than in 2019. But, global pandemic aside, at least I have some good reasons for not being on top of my short story game – and some reasons to celebrate, as well! The biggest one being:
So on a purely personal level, it’s been a good year. My family has remained happy and healthy, and we know how lucky we’ve been throughout everything that’s happened over the last twelve months.
I’m going to try to give my blog a bit more attention in 2021. I’m not a natural blogger, so I tend to only post when I have newsworthy updates or some advice which I think others may find useful. I really enjoyed doing the Virtual Bookshop Tour, so I might aim for more pieces like that in the future.
If you want to receive more regular updates from me, you can subscribe to my newsletter here. I email once a fortnite with a short update about what I’m working on – sometimes with links to free books and recommendations from other indie authors. (Subscribers also receive a copy of Deus Ex Machina, another fun little story set in Hansard’s occult world.)
My goals for 2021? Keep submitting stories; publish Book 2; enjoy more time with my family.
I hope the new year has found you well, and that it brings us all a little more joy than the previous one. Remember to take care of yourself, and the people around you.