A writing career constantly throws up surprises. There is always something new. For instance, I've never been much of a political writer. Politics -- which in theory at least is about rights and wrongs -- and dark fantasy -- which is mostly about degrees of shadow -- do not mix particularly well. But I was asked earlier this year to contribute to an anti-Fascist anthology called Never Again and happily consented. And the end result -- my contribution is a tale called 'Sense' -- is being released next month by Gray Friar Press at British Fantasycon.
But it can get even stranger, taking you in some directions that you thought you'd never go.
Last October, I was at World Fantasy in San Jose when I bumped into Sherlock Holmes afficianado and expert Charles Prepolec. We'd met several times before and got on very well. But this time, Charles said, "I'm putting together a new Holmes anthology [he had edited two already]. How about you try me with a story for it?"
What went through my head was precisely as follows: Flaming hell! A ... what? ... Sherlock Holmes? I've never for the briefest instant contemplated anything like that. I wouldn't know where to start. I've never written in a Victorian idiom, or used that kind of setting. What on earth do I do? Help!
That was what I thought. But I've been writing long enough to understand that a flat refusal can slam shut a door you might regret closing at a later date. So I mumbled something along the lines of "sure, yeah, I'll give it some thought." And that was that.
Honest, I did give it some. But mostly, it was thoughts exactly like the one above. Several months passed, during which I concentrated on a load of other projects. But around the end of January this year, an idea actually began to form. I gave it another week to take shape properly, then sat down at my laptop, not expecting very much. I'd discarded the Victorian setting, but the whole idiom bit still bothered me immensely.
And guess what? My very first Sherlock Holmes story not only came flowing easily from my fingertips, all eight thousand words of it, but it had to be the most fun that I've had from writing in years. And Charles and his co-editor Jeff Campbell seemed to think so too, because "The House of Blood" will be appearing next year in GASLIGHT ARCANUM: UNCANNY TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES from Edge Publishing. And I hope Charles asks me again, because I'd love to try my hand at another one.