Time, what even is it?
Making time to save time.
What up, fiends?
I hope this finds you well. It’s that time of year again. Everybody’s mileage varies here, of course, but I fucking hate December. As soon as we get onto the off-ramp for Destination: Xmas I can’t wait for Boxing Day. It’s a combination of things, including historical personal trauma that always gets amplified by Xmas, combined with the horrible, plastic, artificial consumerist nature of it all. It just makes me feel rubbish. But! I also have a kid now and seeing Xmas through the eyes of now 9 year-old does help to reinject some of the magic. It’s a confusing time. I try to focus on the gathering of friends and spending time with loved ones aspect. That’s always worthwhile.
And time is something that’s been on my mind lately. Seriously, what did I do with all the time I had before I was a parent? It didn’t feel like I had loads of free time, but once parenting becomes a focus of life, time just gets absorbed like water into a dry sponge. So I’m reassessing a lot of things lately, particularly things that take my time. Family is the most important thing and time must always be made there. Which means that anything in the work sphere has to be doubly worthwhile.
It's very easy to lose a lot of hours in this business. For one, procrastination is a killer. I’m good and bad at that. Mostly I’m pretty focussed and I just get on with stuff. I’m at my most productive when I’m busy. If I don’t have much going on, that’s when I procrastinate. So I take on extra stuff and I set myself deadlines and thereby stay focussed. But recently I’ve been making damn sure those things are really worth my time. Because honestly, I’ve been a bit burned out lately.
I’m usually prolific as fuck, but I’ve written less in the last six months than pretty much ever before at this gig. And I recognise that as a kind of burnout. So I’m not letting it get to me. I know rest is an important part of the process and I’m allowing myself space. I’m working at a reduced pace, but still working. And hopefully, in the new year once Xmas and all that nonsense is out of the way, I’ll have a clear time and a clear mind to ramp stuff up again. I do have plenty of things I’d like to be working on, it’s just a matter of deciding what and when. And I had a sudden idea for a wild-ride haunted house novel drop into my brain over the weekend, so that’s not actually helping! Anyway, add it to the list.
Talking of lists (that was a fucking epic segue), the always amazing Ellen Datlow released her list of 2021 Recommended Reads recently. Ellen edits Best Horror of the Year and volume 14 is due out any day now. It’s a personal bucket list item for me to get reprinted in that book one year, but in the meantime it’s an absolute thrill to get mentioned on her Recommendations list that always accompanies each volume. This time I actually had three stories included. Wild.
“Out On a Rim” and “48 To Go” from The Gulp,
“Come His Children” from Cthulhu Deep Down Under Vol 3
The full Recommendations list is here - https://ellendatlow.com/category/news/
And talking of Xmas and short fiction (I’m a segue machine today!) I recently put a new seasonal story up on Patreon. It was originally published a couple of years ago in Halldark Holidays, an anthology edited by Gabino Iglesias (published by Cemetery Gates Media in December 2020) but I feel like maybe that anthology didn't get the attention it deserved. If you did pick up that book you'll have read this story already, and it will find its way into my next collection, no doubt. But in the meantime, I thought I'd share it with patrons. It's a warm, Christmassy story about love and family. Kinda... You can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/75513021
Don’t forget I’m also doing a special signed book package for Xmas, as signed books are about the best present you can give anyone (except maybe whisky or socks… A parcel with a bottle of scotch, a pair of socks and a signed book might actually be the ultimate gift.) Anyway, that offer is here: https://www.alanbaxteronline.com/signed-books-for-christmas-special-offer/
Lastly, in the “news” arena, I’ve mentioned a few times about the anthology I got to edit, called Damnation Games. Well, it’s out now! The cover is up there at the start of this email. My first anthology as editor and I’m super proud of it. All the details and some links and stuff are here: https://www.alanbaxteronline.com/damnation-games-is-out-now/
Stuff I’m Digging
I’ve noticed that I’ve been reading a lot less this year than normal. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but I’m not too fussed. I still read a lot and I’ve been enjoying some cool stuff. I’m catching up on the Best Horror anthologies from Ellen Datlow that I mentioned above, as I’ve fallen a bit behind on those. I recently read volume 12 and have just started 13, anticipating the arrival of 14 any day now. Honestly, Ellen finds the cream of horror short fiction every year. Apart from being an absolute joy to read, these books are a masterclass every time in just what’s possible with short horror fiction.
I’ve long been a fan of UK horror master, Adam Nevill, too, and recently caught up on a couple of his latest. The Vessel is a very short horror novel and Cunning Folk is a longer folk horror novel, and they’re both absolutely superb. His previous one was The Reddening, which was really good, but not as amazing for me as some of his stuff before that. These latest two are Nevill back at the top of his game.
As for TV, I’ve really enjoyed the new Guillermo del Toro anthology series, Cabinet of Curiosities. There’s 8 different stories, each about an hour long. A bit hit and miss here and there, but overall an amazing series. And it’s so good to see horror anthologies like this doing well on streaming services. Apart from anything else, I’ve got a back catalogue of great stories just waiting for adaptation. Call me, Guillermo!
And I’ve been churning through The Expanse on Prime. I’ve never read the books, but the series is just brilliant. No spoilers, please, as I haven’t finished yet. But I’m mid-way through season 5 and just loving it.
Right, that’s it from me for now. I may or may not get another email out before Xmas. I know this is technically a monthly thing, but sometimes it’s only a couple of weeks between them and sometimes it’s 3 months, so I figure it all shakes down in the end. Don’t forget that this email is now hosted through Substack and I post stuff there from time to time that doesn’t get emailed out, so drop in once in a while to see what I’m crapping on about. And it’s down for maintenance at the moment, but I’m really digging a new social media platform called Hive. Come and say hello over there when it’s back up if you feel like it.
In case I don’t email again before Santa comes, I hope you have a wonderful season, however you do or don’t celebrate. Most of all, be kind to others and especially to yourself.