Jack Hansard Book Launch Announced!

Cover illustration by Dominique Lane.

Save The Date: 27th September 2020

Put it in your diaries folks, we’re less than two weeks out! The Jack Hansard Series: Season One will be available in ebook and paperback from online retailers – and in fact, the ebook is already available for preorder at a number of stores! Grab it from the links below:

Amazon

Everywhere Else

UK price on release:

Paperback: £7.99
Ebook: £2.99


Launch Party

What is a book launch without a Launch Party? I’m celebrating with a full 12 hour virtual event on Sunday 27th September – and everyone is invited!

Where?
Find the Facebook Event page here.

What?
There will be sneak peaks, author Q&A, games, and a competition to win free copies of the ebook and a special cameo spot in Season 2!

How?
Sign up on the Facebook Event to attend. We’ll keep all activity on the event page so it’s easy to find throughout the day. Drop in for just a few minutes or stay to hang out for a couple hours – whatever works for you!


Don’t do Facebook?

No worries! I won’t be able to spread myself too thinly over social media on the 27th, but I will aim to check in with my other channels during the day. Come and say hi over on Twitter or Instagram!


In the meantime

Gosh, I’ve spent so long gearing up to this point I almost don’t know what to do with myself any more. Mostly I’m just working hard to get the word out, so I’m approaching other bloggers and reviewers at the moment for more exposure. (Incidentally, if you are one and are interested in receiving an Advance Reader Copy or a guest post, hit me up.)

Otherwise, I’d love if you could share my Facebook Launch Party event with your friends, or share this post to help spread the word!

And don’t forget, if you’re hankering for a Jack Hansard fix in the run-up to launch, there’s an exclusive story up for grabs when you join my newsletter (and another little freebie featuring Edric Mercer will be delivered as well).

If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to get in touch.

Twelve days to go and lots still to do. See you at the Launch Party!

=D


Jack Hansard is the man who can sell you anything.

Luck in a bottle, fame in a box, dreams on a leash: anything is possible when you’re a trader on the occult Black Market.

Jack is used to a life of handling dangerous goods, dodging disgruntled customers, and sometimes running away very fast. But when Ang – two-and-a-half feet of furious Welsh coblyn – buys his help to find her missing kin, Jack suddenly finds the goods are riskier, the customers more treacherous, and escape is anything but guaranteed.

The Jack Hansard Series is an episodic contemporary fantasy with a wide streak of humour and just a dash of horror. Season One contains the first fifteen episodes in the series.

Checking in: My 2020 Submissions

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Argh, how is it July already?! It was only March a moment ago.

Suddenly it feels like there’s not enough time to finish everything I have planned for this year. Among the many goals I’m working towards in 2020, one of them is to beat my rather modest (that is, puny) number of short story submissions from last year. Whether it’s to magazines, anthologies, or competitions, they all count towards the total.

So, as we’re already halfway through the year, I’m checking in with my current stats:

Number of Submissions: 9

Submissions Declined: 6

Submissions Accepted: 0

(No response yet received: 3)

Yeah, I know it’s not mind-blowing. Other writers out there be submitting in the hundreds. But these numbers do tell me I’m on track for my personal goal. If I do the same again over the next six months, I’ll definitely beat my 2019 record. And next year will be even better. I also want to add for this year:

Submissions Published: 1

Publishing’s a long process, y’all. My short story for The San Cicaro Experience was accepted in December last year. It underwent a long (and thoroughly interesting) editing process, and was finally published a couple of weeks ago in June. (Hurray!)

If you’re in the same boat as me I urge you not to give up, and definitely don’t feel downhearted if your subbing numbers look low. If you manage to sub even one more story than last year, it’s still a success. And frankly, the fact you’re doing it at all is what actually counts. There will be a ton of rejection involved – but that’s what makes us professionals, right? 😉

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As well as subbing stories, I’m also in the middle of getting The Jack Hansard Series ready for print and ebook release this Autumn. Exciting times, but it’s a lot to learn and a lot to do, and it’s all starting to get a bit scary-serious.

If you want to keep up with my progress you can hit the Follow button for my blog (you should find it by scrolling past the bottom of this post). You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I use Facebook more for announcements and writing news, and on Twitter I retweet a lot of folklore and mythology-related content.

Don’t be a stranger. =)

The San Cicaro Experience

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Image Source

 

A short post to mark a major personal milestone today.

Today is the launch of The San Cicaro Experience, an anthology of weird and fantastical short stories that take place in the city of San Cicaro, the jewel of the Californian coast. This is the second in the series, following on from the Welcome to San Cicaro anthology published by Thunderbird Studios last year.

It’s also my first ‘official’ traditional publishing credit, as my short story The Hub features alongside seven other strange – and sometimes disturbing – tales written by a team of brilliant authors.

I don’t mean to devalue my self-publishing efforts, but it certainly is nice to get the warm and fuzzies that come with a third party selecting and publishing (and uh, ultimately, paying for) your work.

So, if you enjoy exploring the uncanny – and aren’t afraid of the dark – then consider visiting San Cicaro today.

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Click the image to read the free preview!

Short Story: Lockdown Blues

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‘Lot of people in masks about, gwas.
‘I’ve noticed, Ang.’
‘D’ye really think we should be doin’ this?’
‘We’re just providing a service.’
‘News t’me. I din’t know sellin’ false cures was a service, gwas.
Ang leered at me from her spot inside the car boot. She’d chosen, to my displeasure, a case of antique ritual bowls (all right, old-ish, with genuine cracks painted on) as her seat, next to the proud display I was setting up for this occasion.
‘We’re not selling cures, Ang.’ I straightened the last row of shining objects. They gleamed. ‘We’re selling confidence.
‘Dunno if that’s actually a good thing right now, gwas.
‘Hmm?’
‘Should we really be encouragin’ people t’think they can go outside wi’out fear, right now?’
I was sufficiently surprised enough to tear my attention away. ‘It’s not our job to police how people think, Ang.’
‘Aye. But mebbe we shouldn’t be contributin’ to any all-round stupidity, is what I’m sayin’.’
I stared at my coblyn companion. She may be only two and half feet tall, but I swear sometimes her conscience is a mile high. And always at the most inconvenient of times. ‘In actual fact, I would argue that we are helping to create a healthier gene pool. Only an idiot would fall for this in the first place.’
‘An’ how many d’ye think live here, gwas?
Plenty,’ I snapped.
I’m sick of this town. We tried driving out of it in the first week of the Lockdown, as people seem to be calling it. Nearly had a heart attack when the police pulled us over. How was I to know we weren’t allowed to travel any more?
We were let off with a warning, so I politely nodded to the nice officer, hoped to god she hadn’t taken my licence plate, and trundled back into bloody Mansfield. I bought a newspaper on the spot, and quickly caught up on world news.
I’d stared. And rubbed my eyes. And blinked hard. When did he become Prime Minister? And how? I vaguely remembered some business with a big red bus… It had seemed unimportant at the time.
But that was besides the main point, which was this damned global virus. The world had gone mad. The country had gone mad. A lot of people were dying.
I wondered, distantly, if some bugger had found Pandora’s Box and been foolish enough to open it. That Edric Mercer, probably. He’d do anything for the glory.
But it seemed like the world had done the sensible thing and shut down. Stay outside, Hell Demons, you can’t come in. We are Socially Distancing ourselves from you.
So Ang and I also stayed put. In bloody, sodding, boring Mansfield. I wouldn’t hate it so much if only I were allowed to leave.
Living out of the car instantly took on a whole new level of challenge. Travelling with Ang is hard enough on a good day: with her constant trail of pastry crumbs; her monthly toe nail clippings bouncing off the dashboard; the nightly snoring, with a sound like a tortured chainsaw fighting its way out of a bag of bricks. Up til now, we’ve tolerated each other for so long because there has always been the distraction of my inimitable profession to add a thrill into our day. There’s nothing quite like running away from a previously-satisfied customer who now wants to kill you.
Especially one who wants to kill you because they didn’t read the label on the magic aphrodisiac you sold them and thus completely missed the fact that it was intended for geese and, as regrettably discovered after glugging the potion right in front of my table, had the unfortunate side effect of causing the user to grow feathers in an inconveniently intimate area and begin honking uncontrollably while screaming, ‘Hansard you HONK!–ing bastard! I’ll kill you HONK! you piece of HONK! HONK!’
That kind of things makes a man glad to be alive.
But it was a long time since Ang and I had last encountered any fun of that sort. The new Lockdown landscape was a barren one. There were no shady customers to serve, no devious Black Market schemes to run – every bugger was indoors. Keeping ourselves locked up in the car was a none-starter. We started to live on a perpetual walk through the streets instead. Whenever we were caught out, we were: ‘Just on our way to shops, actually!’ or ‘Just enjoying our one daily exercise, in fact!’
The closing of the public toilets, however, was a real blow to us both. There’s nothing quite like queueing outside a supermarket for two hours to make one really appreciate the need for public conveniences.
During Week Three, we spent one very blissful night in a hotel that was opened up for homeless people. Turns out that travelling with a sort-of-looks-like-a-child-if-you-really-squint coblyn-in-disguise is a great way of being fast-tracked towards the comfiest beds. And a shower. And hot food. And the lack of Ang’s smell. And mine, come to that. I should have found a way to bottle the feeling – I’d give it a trendy modern name like, ‘Bottled Bliss: the Self-Care Edition’ and sell it slyly from the sidelines of a posh farmers’ market.
Ever since, I’ve been working hard on our next commercial venture. A true merchant of enterprise doesn’t let a lack of customers bother him! He finds new ones! He discovers their most pressing needs and finds a way to fulfil them!
Ang watched me rearrange the goods one final time. They had to look perfect.
‘This ain’t you,’ she said, shifting uncomfortably. ‘Where’s the magic in this ysbwriel?
‘In this what?’
‘This rubbish.’
‘Oh.’ I shook my head. ‘Ang. Haven’t you learned anything yet? Where does real magic live?’
She glared suspiciously. ‘Live? It dun’t live anywhere!’
‘You’re wrong.’ I tapped the side of my head. ‘It lives in people’s heads.
Her eyes narrowed. ‘Oh. That kind o’ magic. Thought you was on about the real stuff. Spells and hexes and that.’
‘The beauty of the human mind, Ang, is that you don’t necessarily need a spell to bewitch someone. Now, are you ready for this?’
‘Do I have to, gwas?
‘Equal partnership, remember?’
She slipped out of the boot, grumbling under her breath. Today she was wearing – instead of her usual grubby waistcoat and trousers – a dress. It was a flowery pink spring dress, perfect for the season, but with long arms to cover Ang’s bony parchment skin. It was probably meant for a four year old, but swamped Ang’s wizened coblyn frame.
‘And the hat,’ I said.
She glowered and snatched it from my hands. It was the widest brimmed sunhat I could find from the local charity shop. She rammed it on her head.
It sort of covered her pointy ears, and if she looked down you might be forgiven for thinking there was a little girl under there somewhere.
‘Stop laughin’,’ she hissed.
‘I’m not,’ I lied, turning my back.
‘You best not be enjoyin’ this, gwas, or I’ll have yer hide. Give me the wretched phone.’
It was shiny, black, and rectangular, and the only reason I knew it was a Samsung was because it was written on the back. Technology is not, you might say, my strong point.
We’d ‘rescued’ it from a bin. That is to say, we spent many, many hours digging through the rubbish bags of upscale houses in the hopes of finding some kind of discarded smartphone. I wasn’t entirely certain we would find one, but I should have known not to lose faith in the natural wastefulness of my fellow man. On reflection, it would have been easier (and less disgusting) to just steal one – but that’s not my style. I’m no thief.
Ang waited until the sun peeked out into full view, just as we planned. A nice obscuring shine on that cracked phone screen, and too bright for anyone to question why the sweet little girl wasn’t looking upwards all that much. She walked to the edge of the park where small groups of picnickers were spread on blankets in the sun. There was a conscientious smattering of surgical masks and face scarves among them – but that didn’t worry me. I was sure I could rely on human nature to overcome any rational thought that might be lurking in the herd.
I saw Ang’s shoulders heave in a breath. And then…
‘AaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH–’ Pause. ‘–AAAAAAAHHHHHH! It burns! It hurts! It’s coming through the phone! Help! Gerrit off! Aaaaaahh! Anyone listenin’? I said ‘Aaaaaahh,’ ye bastards.’
It was probably the gravelliest child’s scream those people had ever heard, but it certainly turned heads. I waited for the first few groups to rise, and then entered the stage.
I swooped down on Ang like a guardian angel. ‘What’s wrong, girl? What’s hurts? Here, that phone! Let me have it!’ I held it up to the sun, my face aghast with horror and amazement. ‘No. Not another one. Quickly, come with me!’ I dragged Ang back to the car and theatrically whipped open the boot.
A hesitant crowd followed us, instinctively bunching towards the potential threat, but trying to be socially distanced about it.
‘Is she okay…?’ someone called out.
I ignored the voice for now and plucked one of my new treasures from its resting place. It sparkled pleasingly in the light. I turned to the crowd, waving the phone at them.
‘Do any of you know what this is?’
It was hard to discern the exact expressions under the various face coverings, but I felt they ranged from confused concern for the now-quiet Ang, to polite bafflement at the man wearing a trench coat in twenty-degree weather. Not a bad starting point; I’ve had worse.
Phone, innit?’ one puzzled voice said.
I turned in its general direction. ‘No. This is a phone with an internet connection. It’s a phone with… 5G.’ I put all the dread and menace I could muster into those two syllables. The crowd didn’t take an alarmed step back like I’d hoped, but at least one or two people cocked their heads.
‘So what?’ someone else said.
‘So what? So what? You’re living in a dream world!’ I cried. ‘Wake up! What do you think really caused this pandemic, this illness sweeping our country? Everything was fine until they started putting up the 5G towers! It’s not a virus at all, that’s why! It’s radiation.
Someone scoffed. I rounded on them.
‘You don’t believe me? What do you think happened to this poor child? Look!’ I swung the phone down next to Ang’s head.
Owowowow,’ she said. ‘It hurts, so it does.’
I snatched it back, before she started getting sarcastic.
‘But look!’ I shouted, holding up my creation between thumb and forefinger. It was a construction of tinfoil and wire, bent into a pleasingly occult triangle with horns. ‘This is the answer. This ingenious device blocks the negative radiation! If you attach it to your phone like so…’ I hooked it around the screen. ‘…it effectively filters the poisonous emissions, just like you believe those masks are filtering the air! It’s now completely harmless.’
I put the phone back down towards Ang. She recoiled slightly – a nice touch, I thought – but then stood straight and shrugged. ‘I dun’t feel a thing,’ she intoned.
‘You see?’ I shouted madly into the crowd. Sweat trickled down my neck. ‘Like magic! Keep yourself safe from the virus! I have more, for sale!’
‘Thought you said it wasn’t a virus,’ someone said sullenly. ‘Can’t be a virus, if it’s caused by radiation.’
‘Should that phone even have 5G?’ said someone else.
‘Isn’t it an older model?’
‘Is it even switched on?’
The crowd started to advance, albeit very slowly, so that they didn’t accidentally encroach on their neighbour’s two metre bubble.
‘Wait,’ I said desperately. ‘If you’ll just lend me your phone, ma’am…’
‘What? Have you even washed your hands today?’ was the horrified response.
‘’Ere, he didn’t even use hand sanitiser when he took that girl’s phone!’
‘And he’s standing so close to her! Are you even from the same household?!’
‘What– What is this…’ I stammered, stumbling backwards. The back of my legs hit the car.
‘Are you trying to scam people, mister?’
‘You shouldn’t be encouraging people to believe in conspiracy theories!’
‘This could cost lives, you know!’
When did you all become so sensible?’ I screamed.
There was a ringing silence.
Ang tugged on my coat. ‘Time to go, gwas.
I nodded dumbly, sidled around the car and fumbled my way into the driver’s seat.
There was a slam behind me, and then Ang, perched again in the boot, said: ‘I reckon they think you’ve just kidnapped me, so prob’ly time to bolt, right?’
‘Right.’ I turned the key. ‘Right.’
The crowd broke into a run as we pulled away. We sped up, accelerating down near-empty roads, turned a few corners, and in barely any time at all we’d arrived back in the shitty side-street we’ve called home for the past six weeks.
I killed the engine and let my head thump back against the headrest.
There were scrabbling sounds as Ang manoeuvred her way through to the passenger seat. There was a slow, arduous ripping sound as the dress caught on something along the way.
‘Oh dear,’ she said sweetly. ‘Looks like it be ruined.’
‘Mm.’
‘Ye all right, gwas?’ There was an uncharacteristic note of concern in her voice.
‘Why do you ask?’
She hesitated. ‘You ain’t been right, lately. Like this plan wi’ the phone and the wiffy. Ye hate them smartphones. Thought ye said they took the magic out o’ things…’
Dull exasperation made my voice heavy. ‘Where is the magic right now, Ang? No one’s hosting occult markets until all this blows over. All the interesting beasties – sorry, non-humans – are in hiding just like everyone else. Not even the most delinquent members of our clientele are out and about. Even criminals have grannies they don’t want falling victim to some killer-flu. The world’s gone mad.’
‘Has it, gwas? Seems like mebbe it’s found some sense, for a while.’
‘Ha! You call that sense? I didn’t make up that 5G nonsense, you know. Someone else did it for me! And those people in the park. They can’t see their own families, but they can sit two metres away from as many strangers as they like? It’s bonkers.’
‘Dunno. Seems like a kind o’ magic t’me, gwas.
‘Ha!’
Ang didn’t say anything for a while. I stared blankly out the window while she rustled out of the remains of her dress. Empty streets. All the people locked away, living busy lives indoors, with their families. And if you don’t have a family, you’re in it alone.
‘Do coblyns get sick?’ I wondered aloud.
‘Aye. Sometimes.’
‘Your family doing all right, are they?’
‘Aye. Still gets letters. This virus dun’t affect ’em much, what wi’ already being cut off from the world. It’d have t’be a fierce determined one to get across that bridge.’
‘That’s good then.’
A pause. More rustling. Ang resurfaced with a cold sausage roll.
‘Ye ever call her, gwas?
‘Who?’
‘Ye mam.’
I gave a small start. ‘What? Why’d you say that?’
Ang was staring upwards, sausage roll held halfway to her mouth in thought. ‘Seems t’me like a good time t’be thinkin’ about family, is all. They keeps us sane in hard times.’ She gave me a sidelong glance. ‘Them old folks, they needs checkin’ up on, too.’
‘Mm.’ I ran a hand through my hair, and shrugged off the stupid hot coat. ‘And when am I going to do that? There’s no privacy with you in my face all day–’
Ang tossed something into the air: I caught it reflexively. I stared down at my reliable old Nokia, a brick of a phone by today’s standards.
‘Ye should keep it somewhere safer than the footwell,’ she said drily. ‘I’m goin’ fer a walk. I’ll take the daft hat.’
The door slammed, and I was alone.
‘These phones are indestructible, you know,’ I said to the thin air.
Suddenly, the weight of the surrounding silence was quite pressing. I hadn’t noticed how much I’d relied on Ang’s constant grumbling and munching and snarking to keep it at bay. I rested my forehead on the steering wheel. The phone was heavy in my hands.
I took a deep breath.
Dialled a number.
Closed my eyes.
There was the sound of love on the other end.
I smiled.
‘Hi Mum. How are you?’

 


 

Thanks for reading! I hope this little short has brought you a smile.

This is a standalone episode featuring the main characters from The Jack Hansard Series. If you’re new to Hansard and enjoyed this story, you can read the full twenty episodes of Season One right here.

If you’re already a Hansard fan, this story is meant as a small gift. I know it’s been an age of waiting for Season Two to appear, and that the self-publishing process for Season One is taking up a lot of my time. I want to reassure you that progress is being made: old words are being formatted, and new words are being written. And in the meantime I hope I’ve been able to provide some good humour in the middle of this peculiar moment in history.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you for sticking with me for so long, and for continuing to give me the confidence to take this whole story further. Your comments and messages have really touched me, and it’s an honour to know so many people have read and enjoyed Jack’s misadventures so far. I want to do right by you.

I’ll keep updating through the blog as more news on the series becomes available.

Take care, and look after yourselves in these strange times.

Georgina~

P.S. I wouldn’t have anything against Mansfield if it weren’t for that one time when I tried to travel through it with a bunch of friends, in order to get to somewhere else. But the roads… Wouldn’t. Let. Us. Leave.

Days passed. Years. We grew old circling the same roundabouts. Our escape was engineered by tricking a Wrong Turn into becoming the right one by answering a riddle about the Highway Code.

I’m convinced Mansfieldians live inside a crack in the space-time continuum.


If you enjoyed this story, you can support the author for the price of a coffee.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Life in Lockdown

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Image Source

I feel it would be remiss of me not to write a post about this historic time of global pandemic and national lockdown. It seems like everyone on my social feeds is doing their own live blogs, isolation diaries, and generally reaching out amid the Covid-19 crisis. The snapshots of life across the nation are diverse, yet suddenly intimately familiar as we all, in some manner, undergo the same experience.

The UK’s full-blown lockdown measures were announced on Monday night, just two days ago. For the first time in years I tuned in to watch a live broadcast, with my husband next to me, and my sisters on Messenger, as Boris Johnson effectively told the nation to Stay The Fuck At Home.

There’s not yet a curfew as far as I’m aware, but police can now fine gatherings of more than 2 people (unless you are all from the same household) and a very restrictive list of acceptable reasons for leaving the house has been issued. We’re in this for at least three weeks, with scope for tighter measures and a longer lockdown period ahead.

Despite this, on a personal level, not much feels like it has changed. My daughter is now nine months old, and I’ve been enjoying my maternity leave as a stay-at-home mum for as long as I can. I do now miss my weekly lunch outing to catch up with my sisters, and I WAS just starting to think about visiting my local parent/baby group before all this kicked off… but otherwise, my social life was already a little sparse.

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Here she is, checking our tissue supplies.

Admittedly, the sudden burst of spring sunshine does have me itching to go out somewhere, and I’m sure others are cursing both the beautiful weather and the lockdown as holidays, celebrations, and all social gatherings are cancelled outright. But we need to remember that this is a time when the actions of individuals really does make a huge difference, and we all have a part to play in protecting our country. (This is probably the most nationalist spirit I have ever felt.)

I saw a meme posted by a friend pointing out that in most Plague Outbreak movies society quickly disintegrates under selfishness, looting, and general chaos. But in the outbreak movie we’re currently living in, though some people are being selfish (hoarders and day-trippers, we’re looking at you), for the most part what people are doing is… consuming art. Creating art. Sharing art.

There’s been an outpouring of musicians, writers, and artists all releasing their content for free; there’s a sudden wealth of free education resources for both children and adults; and communities are banding together (but, you know, at a safe distance) to support their most vulnerable. I see strangers offering up their spare food and nappies, offering their time to deliver shopping to neighbours, offering their talents to keep people entertained.

On that same note, here’s a reminder that Season One of The Jack Hansard Series is completely free to read right here on my website (or over on Wattpad, if you prefer reading on their app). If you like humour and contemporary fantasy it might be the next binge-read you’ve been looking for.

If you’re also a creator offering free content or helpful resources in these trying times, PLEASE do post links below. Spread the love (and not the virus).

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With all this sharing and innovation, the internet has never been a more positive platform for social interaction. There are options for staying in touch that I had no idea existed. This week I’m trying out Roll20 to ‘meet up’ with a group of friends to play our regular D&D game on a virtual tabletop. Over the weekend a friend hosted a movie night using Netflix Party. In a couple of weeks it’s my birthday, and I’m wondering whether and how to hold a Skype party.

Another strangely beneficial consequence of lockdown measures is Husband working from home. It’s nice having him in the next room for a conversation throughout the day; for him to enjoy more time with our daughter (he’s done more than one conference call with her on his lap); ultimately, for us all to have more time as a family.

I also know that we’re very lucky. By pure chance we’d done a big shop just before the panic-buying really kicked in, so we’ve not had to worry about scrambling for essentials just yet. We’re not in financial difficulty, though I suppose it wouldn’t take much to push us – or anyone – into dire straits if our jobs suddenly fell through. Just before lockdown I was in the process of arranging with my employer how I was going to return to work; I’m no longer entirely certain that there will be a job for me to come back to.

But that’s a concern for another day. Right here and now there’s a minimum of three weeks of lockdown to get through, and we will get through it together, in spite of being metres and miles apart.

Now, more importantly: How are you?

Let us all know how you’re doing in the comments. What’s life like under lockdown for you? And remember, if you have any art, music, writing, advice, etc. to share, feel free to put those links below as well.

Keep in touch, and stay safe.

 

Georgina~

 

My 2019 Submissions Round-Up

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As we stand on the edge of another new year, it seems like a good time to look back on what I’ve managed to achieve in 2019. I’ve always found it helpful when other writers share their submission stats, so I’d like to do the same here.

2019 is the first year I’ve gone on the attack with submissions, so to speak. It’s fair to say I was lackadaisical about it up til last January: I wrote the odd short story and pined for somewhere it could live. No more.

No more staring wistfully at submission guidelines like a far-off lover. No more dreaming of having a story perfect enough to present as a token of my affection. Get it written. Get it sent. Then get it sent again. And again. And again.

 

So how many times did I get a story sent in 2019?

Number of Submissions: 17

Submissions Declined: 13

Submissions Accepted: 3

(No response received: 1)

 

Only 17? Dang, it felt like a lot more.

This comprised 11 shorts sent to various literary magazines, websites, and anthology open calls. Some were written specifically for the submission call; many were not; many were tweaked. They ranged from weird horror to dystopian sci fi and contemporary fantasy. In some cases I waited mere days to receive a rejection; in at least one it took six months. 3 out of 17 stories accepted doesn’t sound bad, though.

Oh, wait. Let’s look closer.

2 of those were stories accepted by Storymart, a little start-up that never actually got its feet off the ground. (Here’s the post I wrote about it back when I was deciding whether or not to submit to them.) Storymart’s creator ‘pressed pause’ on the project in July 2019 due to what sounds like a very stressful personal situation.

I hope that things improve for them, and that eventually they’ll be able to return to Storymart in the future. I remain incredibly grateful that they thought my work was good enough to become part of their catalogue, and also that for the story they rejected they provided some very helpful feedback on it – practically gold dust!

The other Accepted Story I only heard about a couple of weeks before Christmas. It’s early days yet so I can’t share details, but all being well, I’ll have my first short story ‘officially’ published in an anthology next year.

I’m so excited! I get a paycheck from it and everything.

(I know, I know, I shouldn’t still measure my worth as a writer by whether or not I’m being paid… but it feels good to say it, damn it!)

So I’m ending the year feeling pretty good. 17 submissions isn’t as many as I’d like, but it’s been a busy year. I was pregnant for half of it, and the other half I’ve been dealing with the result. And whatever the number, any progress is good progress. That said…

Goal for 2020: Beat that number.

I know what I’m doing now, and pressing that ‘Send’ button is no longer such a monumental task. If you’ve been submitting this year, I hope things have improved for you too. And if not, we’ve all got next year to work on it.

Happy New Year, folks.

2020, bring it.

 

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Big Hello from a Tiny Creature

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Folks, fabulous news. Nearly four weeks ago now, my daughter Evie came into the world. Here she is with a beautiful smushy grumpy face…

 

Grumpy Face

 

I’ll tell you what, giving birth was a hell of an experience. A lot did not go to plan, and I dealt with some circumstances and emotions I was not prepared for. But we both came through it happy and healthy, and I’m thoroughly in love with the tiny monkey-potato-human it all resulted in. To repeat a sentiment I’ve heard from many other parents: I still can’t quite believe she’s real – how on earth did I manage to produce that little creature? Witchcraft.

Husband has been my pillar throughout everything. We’ve spent the last month slowly letting the reality sink in and learning how to work as a family. Amid all the new routines, this is the first time I’ve managed to sit at the computer long enough to properly string some words together. [Edit: Ironically it was about this point in writing that I had to break to help Husband deal with an epic poo-nami situation.]

Now we’re settling into something resembling a rhythm, I’m feeling optimistic about gradually getting back to work. ‘Gradually’ is important – this is not the time to stack on the pressure, but I’m looking forward to getting back into my groove.

I imagine at some point I’ll do a follow up to my previous post, 5 Struggles of a Pregnant Writer, with ‘5 Struggles of a New-Mum Writer’… But first I actually have to get writing again.Peaceful

Excuse me as I make a start on that, while she’s still sleeping!

Much love~

Georgina

5 Struggles of Being a Pregnant Writer

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So I should probably share the news that has been dominating my life for the last eight and a half months: I’m pregnant, folks. Yep, pretty soon my husband and I will be welcoming a wrinkly little potato-faced creature into the world – god help her.

With the impending arrival less than two weeks away, I started thinking about my experiences of pregnancy, and in particular the effect it’s had on my writing time. Perhaps predictably, my productivity has plummeted: for some reasons I was expecting, and some that came as a surprise. I thought I’d share them for all the other writer-mum’s-to-be out there… congratulations and commiserations to you, by the way!

 

So here are my top five gripes about trying to write while pregnant:

 

1. When you miss your coffee.

It’s a ritual for many writers, and I’m no exception – I enjoy my pre-work sesh coffee. I’ve never chain-drunk the stuff like some people I know, but I do now have to think more carefully about whether and when I drink one.

You may already know: your recommended max caffeine intake during pregnancy is 200mg a day, and one cup of (instant) coffee is around 100mg. The eye-opener for me was learning about all the other things I eat and drink that also contain caffeine: Coca Cola I already knew about, but chocolate came as a surprise. Don’t forget tea, if you prefer the more traditionally British of hot beverages.

This means if I have one coffee first thing in the morning, I can’t have one when I sit down to write in the afternoon. If I happen to drink a pint of coke (it’s an occasional treat for me) and gorge on a bit of chocolate, then it’s also probably best to avoid that coffee altogether.

Now, I don’t need coffee to write, but it’s a comforting habit that helps get me in the mindset for it. Especially after a long day at work, a cup of coffee when I get home is a good way of easing my brain back into the idea of doing more work, i.e. writing. Those after-work writing sessions became hella less frequent when I realised my one rationed cup of coffee was more essential to getting me through my regular workday instead.

That wasn’t the only reason productivity took a dive though, as per the next gripe…

 

2. When you’re too tired to write… all the time.

‘You’ll be a lot more tired when the baby’s here!!’

Thanks. Great advice.

People like to tell you to ‘enjoy your rest’ before the baby comes, but the reality is that pregnancy isn’t all that restful.

I wasn’t prepared for how dramatically the hormones kicked my energy levels, especially early on. It sapped my mood as well as my general wellbeing. One of my colleagues later told me they were worried I was hiding a serious illness, I’d been acting so off.

My morning sickness also hit me quite reliably in the evenings. Trying to write after work was suddenly a complete bust, regardless as to whether I could factor in a cup of coffee or not.

Now that I’m in the third trimester, my lack of energy is down to a lack of sleep. This belly is uncomfortable, y’all. But not just that: the symptom I’ve hated most, and which they don’t tell you about, is sodding acid reflux. Because your stomach is being squished and the muscles are somewhat relaxed, that acid burn is a relatively common feeling, especially at night. I take Gaviscon before I go to bed every evening, and with annoying regularity will still wake up two or three hours later with that same sickly acid in my throat. (Don’t try to give me home remedies, by the way. I’ve tried them all.)

To top it off, for some reason completely unknown to me, I’ve gone from being a person who could happily (nay, ideally) sleep in until midday, to a bloody morning person. Five AM is no longer an alien time to me.

Case in point: as I write, it is presently 5:20 AM. I’ve been awake since around 3:30 AM (woken up by acid, surprise surprise!), because my mind couldn’t stop alternating between drafting this post, and imagining worst-case labour scenarios. Hurray!

 

3. When your belly gets in the way.

I often sit and write on the couch, with my laptop across my knees. (I know, I know, it’s awful for my posture.) It’s comfortable, and situated in the nicest room of the house. I wish I had a home office set-up, but I lack the space and money. I use my dining table occasionally, but the back room can be a bit cold and dreary to spend long periods in.

So the day my laptop could no longer fit on my lap, I felt really pregnant. That belly has no give in it, whatsoever. So now it’s a delicate balancing act, where if I forget to keep my hands on the keyboard it just might capsize backwards onto the floor.

On the flip-side, I am now saving up for some kind of space-saving desk… Maybe one that fixes to the wall or something.

 

4. When you’re in the middle of a paragraph and then… you have to pee.

Needing the toilet more is par for the course in pregnancy. But it isn’t half annoying when it interrupts a great flow of character dialogue. Or, quite often, it happens very soon after I’ve settled into my writing groove: I’m comfy, laptop’s sort of balanced, I’ve got some cake, I’ve even managed to factor in the elusive coffee… then bam. Time to get straight back up for the loo.

Another classic is the internal punching-bag effect. ‘Lightning crotch’ is, I discovered, a widely-recognised term for this pregnancy symptom. It’s pretty difficult to concentrate when mid-sentence you might get a sudden twang right in the pelvis because Darling Angel has just decided to headbutt a couple of nerves or kick some of your organs around. Thanks, lovie.

 

5. When you have even less time to work with.

It’s already difficult to find a balance between your day job, home life and writing, and it’s a struggle I know virtually every writer (unless you’re one of the lucky ones) has to deal with. With a baby on the way, suddenly there are even more jobs that eat into writing time – buying all the baby crap, painting the nursery, figuring out and freaking out about the birth plan…

And if you’re not actively doing something related to baby, you’re thinking about it instead. Do we have enough baby wipes? How the hell do reusable nappies work? What, exactly, is the difference between a pram and a travel system and why does the latter sound like it should come with blueprints?

 

1,316 Wet Wipes
We have 1,316 baby wipes. We counted.

 

I’m also very aware that once the darling potato’s here, I’ll have even less time to spend on writing. But there’s got to be a way to make it work. There are tons of successful writer-mums out there: my question to you is… how do you do it?

 


 

Feel free to share your own #pregnantwriter struggles in the comments – and any tips you have for overcoming them! New-Mum-Writers out there – do you have any advice for those of us expecting? What are the new challenges you face trying to write while looking after a newborn? Am I being too optimistic to think I’ll have any time spare to keep up with writing? ^_^;

And if you’re in the same boat as I am: remember to take care of yourself, and best of luck to you and your potato!

Selkie

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The door slammed open in the force of the storm. The fisherman shrank away from his new bride, his retreat blocked by the invading tempest. She sat, demure, fragile; big seal eyes staring out from under long lashes.

‘I didn’t know,’ he moaned. ‘God help me.’

He watched the fur coat slough off her body like shedded skin, revealing naked flesh beneath. She held out a plaintive hand and barked, a seal’s bark.

He trembled, caught like a fish in a net. Her kiss was colder than the sea. It turned his blood to salt on his tongue.

 


 

This is another short I wrote for the 2018 Southam Flash Fiction Competition, which required stories to be under 100 words and to contain the prase ‘the door slammed’ somewhere in the work. I set myself an informal ‘folklore’ theme to tie my stories together. They were a lot of fun to write.

A friend told me that she laughed out loud at the selkie’s ‘bark’ in this piece though. Not quite the effect I was going for…

Storymart: 5 Pros and Cons for Writers

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Lately I’ve been pursuing publication for some of my short stories, and I feel I’m settling into a good rhythm of submissions and rejections. My current goal, at its barest bones, is to be paid professionally for a piece of my work. A lofty one, I know. Anyone familiar with writing submissions knows just how low the acceptance rate is (I rather like this author’s breakdown of their submission stats, for context) and I know I’ll be waiting a long time for that elusive payout.

However, I came across an intriguing opportunity for short story writers recently. It’s called Storymart.

Storymart is a reader subscription service aimed at lovers of short stories. The creators envision a Netflix-like model, where the reader’s monthly subscription gives them unlimited access to the site’s story content which is provided by writers all over the world. And the writers, rather importantly, get paid.

However, the platform is very new. In fact, it’s not yet open to reader subscriptions as they are still in the process of gathering content from writers. This makes sense – why ask readers to pay for content that doesn’t exist yet?

I’ve been mulling over the concept for a while now, and to help me figure out whether I want to jump onto this infant bandwagon I decided to lay out my thoughts in a simple Pros and Cons list…

 


 

Pro 1: Storymart offers curated content to readers.

The platform practices a submissions process which promises to narrow stories down to those which are of a high enough quality – I’ll give you their own definition of what that means:

“We won’t ask readers to pay for work that’s slapdash, less than committed, or riddled with typos. We don’t publish teen romance, schlock romance, fan fiction, or stories for children.”

Welcome words for writers tired of the bellowing halls of Wattpad-esque establishments, where readers and writers alike are drowning in angsty vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter romances, invariably set in a highschool and demonstrating varying grasps of the english language.

The website seems to promise short stories worthy of appearing in established literary publications like The New Yorker, and so they are actively encouraging writers to only send their best.

 

Con 1: Storymart does not edit any of the content.

This might be a Pro if you hate other people fiddling with your words. In any case, it’s worth noting that submissions are expected to be polished upon entry, and you shouldn’t expect any hand-holding from Storymart in that respect.

How harsh their submissions standards really are is something that remains to be seen – we probably won’t truly know until the site launches for readers. Obviously there’s also chance those submission standards might lower over time. Will they stick to their principles further down the line?

If you’re a writer who has submitted to Storymart, what’s your view on this? Did they accept everything you sent them; did they give feedback on rejections?

 


 

Pro 2: They accept previously published stories.

If you’re in the business of trying to submit to professional markets, then hopefully you understand why this excites me. The majority of submissions guidelines invariably prohibit writers from submitting previously published work, whether it was in print, online, another magazine, a competition, or on a personal blog. This is a barrier I find intensely frustrating: it seems as though once I put a story out there, anywhere, then that’s kind of it for the life of that work. This is what’s putting me off submitting to the huge number of magazines which offer no payment to authors – I’d love the chance to be seen by your readership, but if I do then I effectively give up the prospect of being paid professionally for that story.

(Side-note: I know ‘re-prints’ of published work are sometimes presented as a submission option at a vastly reduced pay rate – and I’d be interested to know how many writers have any success submitting under this category.)

Storymart offers a chance to put some of those one-offs back in front of paying readers. Say you have a competition entry that didn’t win, but was good enough to place on the shortlist and got published online. This might be a way to give new life to an already-proven story.

Similarly, once you’ve placed a story on Storymart, there are no restrictions on where/when you can publish again. A lot of publications will, for example, require that you don’t re-publish your story for a specific period (typically 3-6 months) after it has appeared on their own platform. This means you can publish a story on Storymart and then continue to submit it anywhere else you choose. Of course, this does immediately throw up the very obvious…

 

Con 2: Publishing on Storymart counts as publishing.

If you put a story on Storymart, it’ll run into the exact barrier I was bemoaning above. Other publications may reject it out of hand for already being published.

However, the site is still in Beta stage for the moment. So I suppose during this window where it isn’t open to readers, you still have the option of removing your work from Storymart if it does find a home elsewhere.

Another counter-argument for this is…

 


Pro 3: Storymart is a paying market.

It runs (or will run) on a pay-per-read model.

Readers will pay a monthly subscription of $4.99 to have unlimited access to as many short stories as they want to read. Every time a story is read, the author is paid $0.10 USD. Payments will apparently be made monthly, via Paypal.

 

Con 3: The author is only paid $0.10 per read.

That means a hundred people could read your story over a period of months… and you’d only earn $10 for it.

But wait, let’s compare this to other industry prices…

Based on various bits of advice and my current experience hunting suitable markets, my perception of a ‘professional’ short story rate is around $0.06 per word. However, realistically there are also a very large number of publications offering much less (eg. some that offer around $0.02 per word; some that only offer a flat fee in the $20-50 range per story) and of course an abundance of completely unpaid opportunities that nevertheless offer exposure to their already-established audience.

Let’s go on the lower end and consider a 5000 word story which is paid $0.02 per word = a flat fee of $100 for that story. With Storymart’s model, you would need 1000 people to read your story to earn $100 from it.

I suppose the question is… are you confident your story will get at least 1000 reads?

This is where it gets interesting. Instead of receiving a one-off payment, there’s the potential to accumulate money over time… a very LONG time. Remember, if you only get ten reads a month, you’d need to wait 8-9 years to earn that $100.

At the moment we have pretty much no data to look at to determine what a realistic number of reads per month could be at Storymart. Could be in the hundreds – a hundred reads per month would take less than a year to earn the $100. Or it could be in the tens, and the payoff becomes minimal.

At least the principle is simple: the more readers you have, the more you earn. This will then probably be down to the individual author to market the shit out of their work to gain those consistent reads. And in order to get those reads you need…

 


 

Pro 4: A captive audience.

This, theoretically, is the big draw for writers at Storymart. Readers subscribe because they want to read short stories. They are, in theory, readers as opposed to other writers – which is a flaw I think is endemic of many fiction platforms (Wattpad, I’m looking at you).

I hold the apparently unpopular belief in wider publishing that short stories are an extremely under-rated and oft-forgotten (despite being popular) genre of fiction. I can’t fault the idea of pushing new ways to make short stories more accessible, and a platform dedicated to them sounds somewhat ideal.

 

Con 4: Currently, a small audience.

Here’s something that only time will illuminate further. At present, Storymart is still in Beta stage. That means it is actively seeking story submissions from writers, but is not yet taking subscriptions from readers. As I said, I’m a big believer that short stories are a vastly underestimated market, and there definitely is a passionate audience out there for them. But, will that audience choose to pay a monthly subscription, when there’s so much short fiction available for free elsewhere?

One response, I suppose, is that readers do already pay for subscriptions – to all those short story magazines I’ve been submitting to. That’s what the professional paying market for short story writers is.

 


 

Pro 5: The chance to grow alongside a growing platform.

Wouldn’t it be great to discover the next big thing while it’s still shiny and new and has opportunities ripe for the taking? Before the big boys muscle in and the playground gets swamped by thousands of other voices all peddling their own fantastical narratives?

At this early stage, while the audience might be small, the pool of writers is as well. Would that, potentially, make it easier to be discovered? To snap up the interest of new readers as the platform grows? Getting in early could make all the difference to growing a presence and a following, and if Storymart grows and grows and grows… well, it’s an exciting thought. But, therein lies the risk.

 

Con 5: The whole thing could flop.

Storymart isn’t quite on its feet just yet. Readers could flock to it in their thousands… or they could give it a passing glance and shrug, and go back to their tried-and-tested tenders of online fiction instead. There’s no data to look into yet, so your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not Storymart will still be here in a couple of years’ time.

 


 

But, even if it isn’t… what have I got to lose?

This is the thought I keep coming back to.

The main ‘Con’ which seems to bother me is that publishing a story with Storymart might restrict any future opportunities for that piece of work. But if that story isn’t being accepted anywhere else anyway… and let’s face it, the odds are massively stacked against us in submissions, simply due to the sheer mumber of other stories we’re competing with… well then, what’s holding me back but myself?

I’m not convinced that Storymart won’t have the same problem as other publication routes further down the line. If they do grow successful they’ll probably find their own inboxes at breaking point eventually, despite their best intentions to give submissions the quickest turnaround possible. More reason to jump in early, perhaps?

I suspect I’m overly cautious when it comes to making these kinds of decisions. I’ve doubtless missed opportunities just for fear that it might not be The Right One.

Wouldn’t it be better to earn a few dollars from a story – and to know that it’s actually being read and enjoyed by people – than just letting it languish in the ‘Submissions’ folder on my laptop?

I think what I’m saying is that I’m going to jump in. Because, really, what have I got to lose?

 


 

What are your thoughts on the Storymart concept? Just another online magazine subscription, or the Netflix-inspired service they aspire to? Are there better alternatives already out there?

If you’ve submitted stories to Storymart, I’d love to hear from you! Why did you choose them? What’s your experience been like so far?

If you want to read more about Storymart, their FAQ section for writers is here.