I didn't plan on writing this. But the more I've sat here in a quiet time, it's like the picture has resolved itself. Come into view. Sharper. Clearer. The last month or so has been pretty hectic. Even when my peers ask me how's everything/what's going on/some variation, they all seem kinda surprised when they get the answer. Looks like I've been up to a lot. And I've been social. Sort of. I stepped to Sledge-Lit, and sat in the bar most of the day. Eating and talking to the usual suspects. Editor Dion Winton-Polak. Writer/Publisher Peter Mark May. Screenwriter Eric Ian Steele. The BFS Christmas Party was about a week ago. Sat with BFS man Allen Ashley for a while. Fellow scribe Ben Jones was on hand for camaraderie and comedy in equal measure (including some reference to a potato fetish). Steve Shaw on hand to talk Indie Publishing 101. Right now, I'm grateful that the sociable side of the game is behind me: at least for now. Taking refuge in the proverbial quiet. Like I say, I've been busy. In short, that means I've been writing. As for what I've been writing? Watch this space. Will make an announcement as soon as there's a degree of official involved. Also, as part of me being busy, I handle submissions. As in finding suitable publishers to send my as-yet-unpublished short fiction to. And here comes the thrust of this particular entry. Because while I have a modest selection of short fiction that I used to keep on rotation to send to publishers, I'm looking at it now and thinking I've ...outgrown it. That it's split, scraped and fallen away. Left behind like dead skin. I'm not likely to use those particular stories again. Let me clarify a point here. I'm not saying that the work isn't any good. Not at all. What I am saying is that my game has changed since then. I've changed since then. Or should I say 'evolved.' Upgraded, even. I wrote a short story in the last few days. Only about 1800 words, from an idea that'd been crawling around in my head for a while. Didn't quite look the same on the page. What I also noticed is that even over the last year or so, it would've taken much longer for me to write a similar story of the same quality. When I did the 'A Story A Week' challenge back in 2017, as I said before, the outcome was never in doubt. I knew I'd finish the 52. So it wasn't a question of 'if', but 'when.' What I didn't expect was that my game would evolve as well. I still write fairly quickly. My copy-typing runs at about 45 wpm, FYI. In terms of knocking out a story, I like to get 10 pages done per day - that's when I have a full day to spare. On an evening? Maybe 3 pages. The muse had grown too. Evolved. Buckled and twisted. Now I write horror and dark fiction, which means that a happy ending is unlikely. But like I say, the muse has evolved. In doing the A Story A Week challenge, the muse had led me to dark places. One story so dark, it even disturbed me. Imagine that. Something so dark that it unnerves the mind that created it. As yet, that tale hasn't seen the light of day, but when it does, I'll proudly tell you its origin. According to Steve Chapman: 'some of you motherfuckers need Jesus.' And I'll honestly say I'll take that as a compliment. (FYI, I remember reading his tale Le Mort Vivant for The Anatomy Of Monsters anthology and thinking, 'this is a pure gem of a tragedy.' Masterful work.) So the muse leads me to darker places. And similar to where I might watch a film and think, 'I'm not feeling this part of the plot because of a-b-c' so it is now for work that I write. Except that I'll revisit it further down the line, and the previous iteration becomes the platform for the next iteration. Something darker. Warped. And I say this hand-on-heart for what's coming next: this one should be a real treat. This should be a quiet December, which I'm looking forward to. I've got some work to refine and polish before it sees the light of day. Hell, I've still got the better part of 52 stories from last year (2017) to clean up before they see the light of day. But what happens to the older stories? The ones left behind like dead skin? I might air them out somewhere at some point. A conversation piece, maybe. Think of when Brett found the dead skin in Alien, while he was looking for Jonesy. Be mindful of what's coming. Or at least that something's coming.