An amazing new arrival

A rare personal post from me today, one which I hope will redress the gloom of my ranting last post. Something wonderful happened a week ago today – my second granddaughter was born. Here’s a picture of me (the ugly old one) with the baby. Congratulations to Katie and Steweart on her safe arrival.

You’ll never guess what they’ve called her. It’s a beautiful name, and one which has particular significance to me. Please welcome baby AUTUMN!

Still here

I need to start with an apology. I’ve had a few messages from folks wondering if everything was alright because I’d disappeared. It’s true. I’ve barely left a mark online recently. This iteration of my website has been running since 2008 – more than 1000 posts in total – and April 2022 was the first complete month I didn’t post anything in all that time.

There are a few reasons why. You might or might not be interested, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Some are more personal while others are writing related. I’ll apologise in advance for the length of this post, however I promise a picture of cats and big writing news if you make it all the way to the end.

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Memories or junk?

Thanks to all of you who got in touch following the sudden death of my mum last month. I’ve really appreciated all your comments. My brother and I have worked hard to get her estate in order over the last few weeks, and I’ll soon be back at my writing desk full-time again. Mum would have been appalled if she’d known that she’d inadvertently gate-crashed the release of AUTUMN: INFERNO. You see, she wasn’t a horror fan by any stretch of the imagination, but she supported my work tirelessly over the years and was one of my most ardent cheerleaders.

It was easy to take her support for granted. She used to infuriate me, if I’m honest. There were endless interrogations for news/gossip whenever I saw her, and I used to cringe whenever I released something new and she forced herself to read it out of motherly loyalty. She’d always report back with “it was quite good”, or “I enjoyed it (but it’s not my kind of thing)” when it was clear she’d had to force herself to finish every sentence, and I was forever telling her not to put herself (and me) through it every time I released a new book. She’d never been a lover of apocalyptic fiction, and nothing I wrote was going to change that! All that said, it will be strange when I next write a sex scene or a violent action scene filled with explicit language… I won’t be cringing inwardly thinking “Mum’s going to read this…”

As Pete and I have emptied the house, we’ve been forced to go through her most private things. Our parents’ love letters to each other, keepsakes and mementos, trinkets that meant everything to Mum, but nothing to anyone else.

I was talking to one of my daughters the other day about the transitory nature of memories. I have a cardboard box full of what can only be described as crap, but which I wouldn’t part with for the world. It’s filled with odds and ends that remind me of special times – mostly when Lisa and I first fell in love, and when the kids were born. I look in there and the emotion is almost overwhelming, but anyone else peeking in would just see junk: things like a perfectly preserved paper bag, a plastic roller skate keyring, a scrappy notebook filled with the track listings of mixtapes, a bunch of receipts for meals and gifts… To me, a box full of memories. To almost everyone else, a box full of rubbish.

It broke my heart when I found more memories in Mum’s purse. She’d been carrying these two scraps of paper with her for more than twenty-five years. They wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, but to Mum they were clearly priceless. An invitation to the party Mum and Dad threw when my first book was released. Hundreds of friends, family, and neighbours piled into their back garden to eat, drink, and buy books. I know it started at 4pm, but I can’t remember when it finished… But it’s the receipt behind that touched me most. It took me a while to work out what it was for, then realisation struck – Mum posted the final edited manuscript of STRAIGHT TO YOU back to the publisher as I was at work, and she’d carried the receipt with her ever since. That release was the beginning of my writing career, the moment it stopped being a pipe-dream and became a reality.

To everyone else, these are just two dog-eared scraps of paper. To Mum – and now to me – they’re so much more than that.

An explanation

AUTUMN: INFERNO was released a week ago, but I’ve barely been online and I’ve not promoted it at all. I wanted to explain why.

Last Tuesday morning, my mum was taken ill. She deteriorated rapidly and sadly passed away on Wednesday afternoon. The end was swift and relatively painless for her, so we’re grateful for small mercies. It was what she wanted. My brother and I were with her at the end, and in these difficult times for the NHS, we’ll be forever thankful for that. The staff who looked after her were wonderful, and she received nothing but the best care and absolute respect and dignity.

I wanted those of you who’ve ordered signed copies of the new book directly from Infected Books or Etsy to know that all copies have been dispatched and should be with you shortly (if you’ve not already received them). I’m going to take a few weeks out to focus on my family and on sorting out Mum’s affairs, so things will be even quieter than usual around here for a while.

To those of you who’ve already picked up and enjoyed INFERNO, thank you. I’m thrilled with the reactions from folks who’ve already read it. It’s available now in all the usual places. Please don’t delay if you want a signed copy or if you have questions about an order you’ve already placed. I have plenty of copies in stock, and I’ll be checking emails and dispatching orders daily.

This accelerating rate of change

The title of this post is part of a line from an old PETER GABRIEL song, and the fact I’m thinking of it as an old song just highlights the point I wanted to make. The song’s called ‘Downside Up’, if you’re interested, and the full line is “The only constant I am sure of, is this accelerating rate of change”. It was released over 20 years ago, but it doesn’t seem 5 minutes. All of a sudden, time seems to have sped up rapidly in my little corner of the world.

I’m telling you this for writing-related reasons, so bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago was the one year anniversary of my heart attack. Last November I turned 50. In March I became a grandfather for the first time. Now, I don’t feel any older or any different than I did at the beginning of 2020, but clearly time is marching on!

Long story short, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reassessing; working out what I want from life for me and my family, and what I’m hoping to achieve. The first step happens this week, when I return to full-time writing for the first time since 2014. Those of you who’ve been following me for a while might remember that I had a bit of a ‘falling out’ with writing back in 2014 and I got myself a real job because I was in desperate need of a) human contact, and b) a reality check. I happened to find a job that I really enjoyed and that was suited to my skills, and in what felt like the blinking of an eye, the 12 months I’d planned to spend in employment somehow became 6 and a half years. I continued to write throughout, but the time I had to promote and talk about my work dried up. I love what I write, and I’m very proud of the body of work I’ve so far produced, but I regret not being able to make more of a noise about it recently.

That all changes with AUTUMN: DAWN. The book is going to be released on 31 May 2021 as a paperback, ebook and limited edition hardcover. Limited edition pre-orders will be opening within the next week, and ANYONE WHO PRE-ORDERS THE HARDCOVER WILL BE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD AND READ THE EBOOK VERSION OF THE NOVEL STRAIGHT AWAY!

Seriously, I can’t wait for you to be able to dive into the new trilogy. I’m planning on doing a Facebook Live thingy (or similar) shortly before release so that I can answer your questions about the new books.

Please follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any news. There’s a LOT of stuff on the way.

Life and Death

You’ll see from the date of my last post that I’ve not been around for a while. There’s good reason for that. My dad was taken ill at the end of January and, just over a week ago, he passed away (it still feels unreal to type that). Life for my family and I has been on hold for the last month or so.

It’s funny – as a horror author I write about death a lot (heck, the first line of AUTUMN is ‘Billions died in less than twenty-four hours’), but no matter how much you think you’re prepared or how many times you go through it, you’re never quite ready for the tsunami of emotions you feel when you lose someone you love.

My old man had a hellish final month. There were scenes that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of my novels, and Dad even joked that he wanted a slice of the royalties if I based a story on what he’d been through. It was a rollercoaster ride: we laughed, we cried, we laughed some more, then we cried even more after that. He received exemplary care from our incredible NHS, and he died after spending his final hours surrounded by people he loved and who loved him dearly.

See you, Dad, and thanks for everything. You’ll be missed by many, many people and will never be forgotten.

At this point he’d tell me to stop moping and pull my finger out, so I will. Normal service will be resumed here shortly.