2023 Writing Round-up

Wow, 2023 was a year, wasn’t it? I can’t pretend it was a great one for actual writing (well – more about that below) but it was hella eventful in other arenas. Factors distracting me from writing including (but were not limited to) the ever-growing Baby T (now a toddler – who knew that children grow?), completing my first year of full-time teaching (ah, so this is what they grow into) and drumming at various gigs. That said, writing books isn’t the only pie I’ve got my authory fingers in, and it’s been great to be part of the adventures of those who’ve made films, displayed paintings or written songs that relate to things that I’ve written. This is my 2023 writing round up and all the activities I’ve been part of.

The Taxidermist and Other Films

Chaz Parvez has brought two of my short stories to cinematic life. In January, The Taxidermist premiered at The Depot in Lewes, and in the subsequent months it got selected at a few festivals and scored a Best Actor award for lead man Arthur Smith (though Holly and Rory were phenomenal in their parts too). It went on to be shown at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre as a B-movie to The Exorcist. What an achievement! The Connaught also had a festival of its own, Celebration of Cinema, and Beneath the Cedar showed as part of that. These events were brilliant for meeting likeminded twisted misfits and introducing my writing to others. Not to mention flogging books.

The Taxidermist up on the big screen. You know I have my own imdb page due to this?

Exit Stage Left (-Hand Path)

As and when I could, I got out and performed some of my writing – mainly poems. I was really excited to perform as part of DarkFest Worthing, alongside some great gothically-inclined acts, especially since I got a whole 20 minute to fill. You see, open mic slots are much smaller, and my staple poems often stretch to five minutes or more (all recited from memory, mind you). Seeing the reaction to my favourites (The Requiem Box, The Gray Portrait, The Blade) was fantastic. Performance poetry is something I’ve taught myself over the last five years, and I’m proud of where I’ve got to. I also enjoyed performing some ghostly verse in the intervals of my drumming gigs around Halloween.

A Night at the Grand Guignol

I also got about to other events and exciting places. In May, I saw David Bramwell’s The Cult of Water, as well as the poems of Victor Neuberg (most infamous as partner-in-crime to Aleister Crowley) read by his granddaughter Caroline. This was all organised by Steyning Bookshop and hosted at the local church, and culminated in Justin Hopper and Sharron Krauss performing Neuberg’s poems to music.

It was a immersive night and spoke to my folk horror side so much that I took Baby T and the Lady K out to Kingley Vale the next day. Kingley Vale is one of the oldest yew forests in Europe. Myriad spooky vibes. We also explored a long barrow in Avebury around this time, as well as some isolated churches in the Sussex countryside. In November I saw folk horror band Green Lung, complete with their own Ooser and Mari Lwyd on stage.  2023 was a good one for the rural and the occult.

Julia Ann Field, whose painting Choke inspired my poem New Atlantis, has continued to display her work and has put New Atlantis alongside it. I love that the two make such a thought-provoking diptych and that Julia liked my writing enough to continue to push it!

Harvest House – Redux

In September, six years after it was first published, I re-released Harvest House. I’d felt for a while that it needed a new cover and a spit and polish, and teamed back up with artist Neil Elliott to reformat the book and illustrate it in the vein of The Taxidermist and Other Gifts. Neil puts so much effort into interpreting the themes and motifs in my stories and we had a ball exploring folk horror tropes and engaging with the writing. I decided I was proud of Harvest House after all. I even made an accompanying playlist! Next, it’ll be The Greatest Show Under the Earth getting the illustration-and-re-edit treatment.

The Devil of Christmas

I love Christmas, not that you’d know it from Red Christmas or Krampus. One band I’ve had the pleasure of performing with this year has been Bonny R and lead man Rolf couldn’t resist putting Krampus to music after seeing it on social media before Christmas. Having described myself at a poetry night as “heavy metal Edgar Allan Poe” just the week prior, it was brilliant to hear my words alongside thick riffs and double-kick drums. Give it a listen and enjoy Rolf’s devilish vocal performance.

Actual Writing

Yeah… about that. All those 2023 writing adventures above? They take time – practice, organisation, headspace. Writing got a bit pushed down the ladder this year. I started a new novel (working title: The Blessing of the Pig) and, though I got 25,000 words deep, it stalled as life got in the way. Who knows, I might pick it back up.

Smaller writing fared better. I finished four short stories and got some brilliant feedback from a publisher about one of them (no – not that kind of brilliant, but I’ll take it). I also wrote eighteen poems and, looking back, they map out 2023 pretty well. Another Bloody Nightmare was written whilst sleep-training Baby T. Great and Circling Bird of Prey when I felt constantly shadowed by unending workload, gigs and bouts of illness. No Heaven as the suffering in war-torn places around the world was brought to national (and my) attention. But even when things have been tough, I’ve escaped into my gothic and folk horror distractions. I love my poems The Descent of the Virgil, about a Victorian invention for traversing hell, and The Yew Wood Scythe, about a blade with some unexpected consequences for those it cuts.

See, although I’ve got next to no time to do it in, writing is a passion, and it finds a way through the other stuff. Even if it is with less frequency than it used to be. And I know I’ll be escaping into writing in 2024 too. Happy new year to you all.

Liam Smith

Writing twisted gothic tales and drumming whilst I think up more.

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