Probably the biggest news for me is that two of my stories are heading for publication. The first is a reprint of Gecko, my tale of heroic failure that was Commended in the 2012 Seán Ó Faoláin Competition. That's going to be included in a new textbook (to be entitled "Expression") published by Forum Publications, for second-level students in Ireland. I'm not 100% sure when the book will be published, but it's likely to be within the next couple of months. It's a strange and exciting thought that my story will be used in schools in some way. I'm particularly pleased with this, as I'm very fond of Gecko, and it's an all-too-rare example of a humorous story that's done well in a 'proper' competition, so it's great to see it get another outing. I hope the students enjoy it too.
The second publication comes as a result of winning a runner-up prize in The Fiction Desk's Flash Fiction Competition last week. My story The Guy in the Bear Suit, an odd and hopefully creepy tale of long-forgotten misdeeds coming back to haunt somebody, will appear in a forthcoming anthology alongside such writers as Nik Perring and Cindy George, who wrote a story about rollercoaster fanatics I particularly enjoyed in an earlier TFD anthology, Because of What Happened. If you're not already familiar with TFD books, they're well worth checking out - nicely put together and an interesting mix of styles and subjects.
This prize represented my first result (of any kind - I've been without a shortlisting, a longlisting, anything) for well over a year. It's true I did a whole load of other stuff, including moving house and doing a lot of day-job gubbins, so the number of competitions I entered did drop off considerably, but I don't think the quality of what I was sending out had dipped. Time will tell on that front, I guess; if I can home some of last year's stories I'll know I was just unlucky. If I can't, well, hopefully getting a prize at The Fiction Desk signals that I'm climbing back out the other side of this apparent slump.
In more mundane news, I've been up to my neck in the novel. This is the unglamorous side of writing, the hard slog when day after day the wordcount creeps up but you never feel like you're actually making any progress. It's been hard to keep on track, and I've had to grit my teeth and watch some very enticing competitions slip by, but my more disciplined approach has paid off: I've written another quarter of the book over the last three months. If I can keep the momentum going, I'll be on track to finish the first full draft by the end of March. Early April at the latest. Words can't express how much I'm looking forward to being able to type "The End" for the first time. Many redrafts and edits lie ahead, I'm sure, but from that point on, I will at least be able to claim that I genuinely have written a book.
And now, for no reason other than the fact it's getting spring-like outside and I've been out and about getting to grips with my new camera, here's a photograph of a slightly pensive-looking squirrel: