Reading and Writing Challenges in 2021

We all know what kind of a year 2021 has been. And while 2020 was a tough one, we all felt like 2021 would be the light after that dark night. For many, it was just as rough, but I’m proud of holding my head above water and for achieving what I did this year. Now that I’m done mixing metaphors, I’ll give you the lowdown. Some of it’s personal stuff, but I beg your indulgence. – here’s a bit about my new novel too. Reading and writing challenges in 2021.

New Careers

In January of this year, I decided I wanted a career change. Not just any change either – I wanted to become a teacher. And the first time I said it aloud, I wondered why it had taken me this long to work it out. It was inevitable. In all my jobs, I’ve loved mentoring my colleagues. I’ve loved being part of training. And I’d never really gotten to grips with not having six weeks off in the summer.

I have the most supportive family in the world, and with their help and support (emotional, professional and financial) I went through all the applications and interviews required to start my PGCE. I’m now three months deep into my placement at primary school, and loving every minute. It’s hard work but I think I might have found the vocation that has eluded me thus far in my professional life. And speaking of family…

New Family

Earlier this year, my wife fell pregnant. I say fell. It’s not like she tripped over and landed on a pregnancy – we had always maintained we wanted to start a family at around this point in our lives. We’re over the moon and our baby boy is due in January 2022. Time will tell how fatherhood might affect my reading and writing (as well as the aforementioned PGCE). So, if you see me in the street with baggy eyes, five o’clock shadow and my shirt on backwards, you’ll know why. And about that writing…

New Novel

I wrote a novel this year. It’s not my first. A few years back I wrote After Life, a gothic horror set on a ship sailing back from Egypt. I touted it to publishers and agents, and got feedback on the full manuscript (though no offers to represent it). I implemented that feedback in my newest novel, The House on Abaddon Square. Gothic again – think The Exorcist meets Reservoir Dogs in Victorian London – and meticulously planned, I’m incredibly proud of the manuscript. I knuckled down and wrote the 100,000 words over a roughly four-month period without taking a day off. It’s the best bit of writing I’ve ever done.

I sent the manuscript to the agent who had most enjoyed my last draft (and given it the most comprehensive feedback). But lightning didn’t strike twice, and they weren’t interested. I was disappointed, but to even have had feedback from an agent is a big step. Now it’s just a matter of finding a publisher or an agent who might be a good fit for the novel. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

Editing complete – now it’s time to find a publisher

New Reading Challenge 2022

I’ve heard being parent to a new-born takes up all your time, but then people say that about teacher training too. So they’ll cancel each other out, right? That’s how this works? Anyway. No reading or writing challenges for 2022. Send off my manuscript to agents every couple of months. Read and write for pleasure in between the other stuff. Simples.

All the Books I Read (2021 edition)

The Bloody Red Baron – Kim Newman

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Melmoth – Sarah Perry

The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix

The Dark Half – Stephen King

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Room 13 – Robert Swindells

Inside the Worm – Robert Swindells

Thank You NHS – edited by Adam Kay

The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris

(the first of several entries from my Ultimate Horror Novels List)

The Mistake I Made – Paula Daly

The Dirty South – John Connolly

Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King and Owen King

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Nemesis – Agatha Christie

The Great God Pan – Arthur Machen

Himself – Jess Kidd

The Postscript Murders – Elly Griffiths

The Birdwatcher – William Shaw

Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

Bag of Bones – Stephen King

The Burning Girls – C. J. Tudor

Hannibal – Thomas Harris

Chart Throb – Ben Elton

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty – A. N. Roquelaure

Watching the English – Kate Fox

The Marlow Murder Club – Robert Thorogood

Beauty’s Punishment – A. N. Roquelaure

Unnatural Causes – Dr Richard Shepherd

Beauty’s Release – A. N. Roquelaure

The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton

(loved this. Even if it was really similar to After Life!)

The Last Sherlock Holmes Story – Michael Dibdin

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

Host – Peter James

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

The Murder Pit – Mick Finlay

If It Bleeds – Stephen King

How to Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell

The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons

The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson

Rawblood – Catriona Ward

Eric – Terry Pratchett

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Terry Pratchett

(this was so good it inspired a whole blog post)

Jaws – Peter Benchley

Inspire – Ben Fogle

Exquisite Corpse – Poppy Z. Brite

The Bad Seed – William March

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

(a novel without words. Highly recommended)

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths

Marley and Me – John Grogan

The Longest Trip Home – John Grogan

The Shape of Darkness – Laura Purcell

Liam Smith

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

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