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Edge-Lit 6, 15th July 2017

Let me start by saying that I had no real intention of attending this year's Edge-Lit. Not only does the A Story A Week challenge from This Is Horror keep me busy enough, but on top of that, there I go working at breakneck speed to get all 52 in the bag. With 52 in the bag, I can then get back to the long fiction: the novellas and novels which is where my preference in.

This is what I get for signing up to the challenge in the first place. Still, I suppose there's comfort in the fact that it's not a question of if I’ll complete the challenge, but when. Currently at 36 stories.

I digress.

Like I say, I had no real plan on actually attending the damned thing. Plenty to keep me busy in the realm of writing, let alone the fact that I have a pretty well-rounded life (say the man who is often figuratively shackled to keyboard, hammering out new product). Anyhow. There were mainly two reason that I had decided to step to this year's Edge-Lit. First up was the Sinister Horror Company: indie publisher of, unsurprisingly, horror and dark fiction. The reason behind this goes back a few months, in fact. The novella I'm still shopping, which is actually the sequel to the short Sunset Is Just The Beginning (which appears in Cranial Leakage: Volume 1), is a work that I'm still shopping around. I shopped it to the Sinister Horror Company.

While the work was rejected, I also had the suggestion to resubmit the same to them if there were more submission calls. On top of that, there was the invitation to contact them if there were any questions. I guess there's an irony in that a for a business that isn't famed for its quickness - certainly not for authors in getting work published - you have a publisher that's quick to engage with authors, including those who are rejected. Fast-forward maybe a month or two, and I'm hit up by one half of the SHC; the half known as Dan. He asks what my availability is like for short stories as he's putting together Volume 3 of The Black Room Manuscripts. I tell him I'm always working on something. Since he asks for horror shorts, so I send him a small selection. My contribution, "Deceitful" is now scheduled for publication in Volume 3 of TBRM.

So. I'd missed out on the Birmingham Horror Con, which is where the SHC were going to show up. But then I get wind of them making the trip to Edge-Lit. And it occurs to me that for all the back and forth of submission of work, contracts, releases and such, I'd not met these people. And it's not like with North American publishers, where it'd be more of a mission to go visit. So I signed up for Edge-Lit.

Reason 2 comes in the shape of one Steven Chapman. I forget how exactly we first connected. Most likely a friend-of-a-friend thing, whether it's by social media or by convention (like Edge-Lit). Anyhow. At some point down the line, Steve hits me up for eyes on a short, which he's looking to submit to a particular anthology. On top of this, there was a three-way conversation between myself, Steve and said publisher, who had already seen and liked the story, but accepted that Steve wanted to tighten it up some. Which is where I came in. I did say from the off that I could turn it around double-time, as long as I knew the deadline in advance (since that would help me map out how the beta would go, so I could manage expectations).

Now. When I beta-read for people, my disclaimer is that it's a critique they're welcome to use or refuse as they see fit. Often, the story doesn't move me. That's in no way an indicator of the quality work; just that the actual story didn't move me - at least not enough to gush over it. Horses for courses. But when I read his short, I was blown away by it. For all stories I can think of in book or film, the actual story perfectly captured what would be a tragedy. SO while I gave it a 'red-pen beating' (to quote the man himself), he pretty much nailed the tale. Look for it in The Anatomy Of Monsters, Vol. 1, out now.

Anyhow. This now brings things more up to speed on the motivation for heading to Edge-Lit. Unlike last year, I went earlier in the day. Edge-Lit has panels and workshops and I'd rather not attend the workshops as they feel like ...well, work. The panels, though? Of course. Sit down and discuss and debate with your fellow man and woman, whether an author, editor, publisher, etc. The love of the genre. Richard Farren Barber was the first one I bumped into once I hit Derby and strolled into the venue. Now I got there early, but I was surprised to see how crowded it was. Even better (and unlike last time) you didn’t have to sign up for the panels - you just wander in.

Ahhhhh. If only I'd known.

Anyhow. It wasn't too long before the likes of Eric Ian Steele, Ezeiyoke, Ben Jones (and I didn't even have a chance to pick up goodies from Waitrose, a la The Waitrose Incident). As the day wore on, I get to meet more of the usual suspects and after the 1pm book launch, I got to shake hands with one Daniel Marc Chant.

Like I say: I went mainly to meet the SHC duo and Steve Chapman, but also to socialise and connect with the like-minded. So sitting in the building cafe and downing two pizzas (I realised too late that one simply wouldn't have enough chicken), I then finally get to catch up with one Steve Chapman lounging across the room. How do I call him over? I pop my pecs at him, because I'm such a child. But, yeah. Wholly good-tempered and likeable guy. Just chit-chat about this, that and the third.

And then off to the dealer's room to have a proper catch-up with the Sinister boys. Justin was AWOL at first, but soon comes back, and signs my copy of Mad Dog. Time spent with the pair of them talking everything from Alien: Covenant (which Dan likes, for some weird reason, but Justin doesn't) and comic characters such as the Hulk and the Abomination. Learned gentlemen indeed.

I also ran into Peter Coleborn and wife Jan Edwards, who always engage me when I see them and make me feel welcome.

Good people. More lounging, then the usual raffle, and then back to the train station to head back into the capital, travelling with one Peter Mark May, who shared some stories about how he approached the game and, well, shared some stories. These stories and these people make things worthwhile.

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