Farewell, 2020, I will see you in Hell

Strictly speaking not actually a year in review–what is there to look back on?


When I started this dumpster fire of a year, I had been hoping, at most, to have a lot of parties and then deal with the hell-hangover of Brexit with a good solid bedrock of fun underneath me. I got off to a roaring start, flitting from one burlesque-themed but otherwise disappointing night at the Café de Paris (which appears to have changed its clientele a lot since the last time I went, into people significantly less familiar with the art form and mostly just interested in paying Central London prices for champagne), to an open-air street view of the city’s fireworks followed by several people arbitrarily letting off fireworks in the street freestyle (a bit hair-raising), to dragging my excellent companion for the night to Vauxhall to enjoy a proper party at Beef Mince’s NYE bash at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where I danced so hard that most of my costume came off.
After that things floundered somewhat.

By the time I managed to extract my friends from under their winter rocks, the rumblings of global pandemic were already close to thunder. I managed to squeeze in a fantastic photography exhibition in Feb, a birthday bash in early March, a quick trip to the Beardsley exhibition followed by an extremely fancy afternoon tea at Dominique Ansel’s Victoria patisserie, and was booked in for delayed cabaret and a party in Paris when “yeah good luck with that” descended on us like a swarm of murder hornets.


Global events hardly need reiterating here; we’ve all sat around twiddling our thumbs, learning how to mute microphones in Zoom, and following the latest absolutely bullshit 2020 has had to throw. I experimented with learning to climb trees (free! outdoors! technically legal! challenging! a great way to get tetanus!), explored the interesting walking routes my area had to offer, and watched my country go into meltdown over and over.


I missed every single celebration in my personal calendar: Eurovision. Pride. Trans Pride. Halloween. All the great party occasions vanished like leaves in the wind. Museums which had already become increasingly unfriendly to visitors, with airport-esque security, barely-voluntary demands for “donations”, and decaying innards grew erratic in their opening hours, online-booking-only, and requiring set routes which would exhaust even those used to cheerfully yomping across the moors carrying a horse on their back. Restaurants closed, opened, closed, opened with outdoor seating which temporarily transformed Soho into Siena (one of the few upsides of this mess); memes came and went, celebrities and politicians went absolutely shitnuts insane, long-overdue rioting about racism flared up, prompting me to both quit Instagram and adopt a new charity to support (Black Minds Matter, who need your donations!) alongside my previously preferred two (Mermaids, MSF).


As the archives will show, I returned to craft projects to stave off boredom. Kimonos, doubletshome-dyeing with rust, terrible experiments in goth crochet, and a cautious dabbling with electronic music composition that was only enhanced by a birthday excursion to the Design Museum’s timely exhibition… shortly before Lockdown Number Whatever We Were Up To Now.


The important thing is that, despite having had no intentions of doing so when I set out, I started kicking Submission Fear in the balls.

  • An acquaintance pointed me at Authors Publish newsletters, which led to an absolute inflorescence of options for submission.
  • After failing angrily out of last year’s NaNo, a rest, some what-would-be-soul-searching-if-I-believed-in-such-things, I experimented with writing exercises, and settled back into a habit of writing 200-400 words a day on a long-form project in around February. The project has now surpassed 120k words, which suggests I overshot the mark a couple of times, but my maths has never been spectacular; the main thing is that, writing longhand as I did when I first started out at the tender age of 13 or so, and freed from anxieties of what people would think about it as I’d already decided it wasn’t for public consumption, I found it much easier to write other things…
  • And to then submit them.

I haven’t kept a record of how many things I submitted or to how many places, but I do have a handy list of acceptances:

  • Erato from New Smut Project took on the excerpt from “When Someone Speaks Your Language”. I’ve worked with NSP before, which may have been a factor in the acceptance.On The Premises Magazine’s 36th issue, Ooh, That Smell took “Weed”, a John Wyndham & Helen Cresswell-inspired plant comedy-horror.Dear Leader Tales from Feral Cat Publishers was the home for “The Scourge”, a comic-fantasy short about a plague.And Calyx, a writers’ collective, found a place in their And Lately, The Sun environmental sci-fi anthology for “Light From The Darkness”, a light-hearted look at the moral complexity of reliance on fungi.
  • I’ve written a lot of other stories as a result of the Authors Publish Newsletter, some of which I hope to put into a collection at some point next year. What I’ve learnt from publisher feedback, patterns of acceptance and rejection, and the much-needed, often lightning-fast (just before a deadline) editorial comments of some very helpful friends:
  • There is no knowing whether a story’s level of editorial oversight and polish will help or not. “The Scourge” and “Weed” were not particularly heavily buffed up or altered, whereas “Light From The Darkness” is probably the most edited, read-over and carefully-considered thing I’ve done all year.
  • On the whole, pieces written specifically for the anthology are more likely to succeed than stories written on-spec or from inspiration (two taken from dreams, one from a friend’s highly inspiring musings on art and reproduction, have failed to land). This, once I’d grasped it, help to drive the large number of stories I’ve completed.
  • I’m more likely to score a hit with humour than with anything else. I try to maintain a decent balance of amusement and serious subject-matter anyway, because leaning too far in either direction I find makes things harder to read.
  • That said, a lot of rejections have noted that while the stories are amusing/interesting/enjoyable to read, they’re not hitting the note the anthology is looking for. This happens quite frequently with horror, one of the markets most hungry for new stories (romance and ghost stories are also high on the list, with fantasy and sci-fi trailing behind; there are a couple of calls for mystery stories–my favourite to read–but frankly that’s going to take work to approach at the level I want to work at). Comedy is easier at the moment because we are in a nightmare year, and distraction is the order of the day. One does feel like telling people if they’re that desperate for horror they can always open any given newspaper!

The good news is that relentlessly pursuing deadlines and constantly having stories out takes some of the sting out of rejections. Not all of it! But it’s becoming very commonplace now, and I have four more publishing credits in my standard bio than I had coming into 2020.


What will the new year hold? Probably a lot more lockdown, which means a lot more writing, reading, crafts, walks, and studiously avoiding Zoom because I absolutely hate it. Probably a short story collection, and hopefully some more acceptances to share with you all–stay tuned, etc., and enjoy the dregs of this godawful year

Libraries give us power (and free reading)

So, the thing about writing books for sale and so on is that I know that they cost money. Because of the nature of print-on-demand publishing, often a lot of money–which I can’t do anything about. And while I have some work available for free online (On The Premises magazine and as a standalone on gumroad), that’s not exactly the full range.

Growing up as I did in a single-parent/unemployed household, aka On The Dole, I’m intimately familiar with the frustrations of wanting to be able to read significantly more books than are available to my limited income. Fortunately for me as a kid, the library system exists.

All hail public lending libraries, without which many people wouldn’t be as well-read, entertained, or even able to get online, get training, access translation, get advice on a wide range of issues, access their local councilmembers, take adult literacy classes, socialise with other elderly people or other young parents, or sometimes just sit down somewhere warm and dry for five minutes without someone demanding that they buy something or clear off. Libraries are the absolute nuts. Nothing cooler than a library.

Perhaps the majority of people aren’t aware that by borrowing books from a library you’re still paying authors for their work. It’s not a huge royalty but for some authors it’s truly and honestly the difference between scraping by and being able to invest in some more research books (let’s be honest, that and Netflix subscriptions is the height of profligacy for most writers, the majority of whom are not earning so much as minimum wage). In the UK, ebooks borrowed on library apps also count.

So that’s the good news. The other good news is that since I’ve registered almost all of my publications with the British Library now, if you wanted to read one of my books but couldn’t afford to, you can now request it from your local library! Which is great news all round, because the more people use libraries the more funding they can apply for (or the more they can show that their funding shouldn’t be cut); the more authors get paid, and the more you get to read, I cannot stress this enough, free books. Free books where no one loses, except maybe Amazon, who frankly aren’t exactly about to go broke.

So that’s the good news. Free books! Request a title from your local library today!

[PUBLISHING] Erato

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that an excerpt from a much, much longer project of mine has been published in New Smut Project’s flash fiction anthology Erato, and that the anthology is now available to buy from a huge number of sources:

New Smut Project have helpfully collated these.

I’d just like to reiterate as this is the second time I’ve published with New Smut Project (the first time was under the romance/erotica pseudonym Melissa Snowdon, in the anthology Between the Shores, which you can find among the books on my Books page): they are a fantastic outfit to work with, and there’s a great mixture of emerging, established, and brand new voices in this anthology. Definitely check it out if you’d like to see literary erotica in a variety of genres, all under 2000 words and perfect for short attention spans–consider it a tasting menu of considerable variety.

PUBLISHED OCTOBER 24
Erato: 50 erotic short, short stories with a diversity of characters and settings–all of them breathtakingly seductive and memorable. Expand your erotic imagination and discover the pleasure different bodies, relationships, and...

[PUBLISHING] On the Premises #36

Derek Des Anges <derekdesanges@gmail.com>05:21 (25 minutes ago)Reply
to me

Having only just seen the publication of Dear Leader Tales and my contribution, The Scourge, I’m following it up with another publication announcement:


My story, Weed, is in #36 of On The Premises (and an Honourable Mention, possibly the first time I’ve ever been described as Honourable).


While it’s on the site, the issue is free to read, so head over there ASAP and have a look (the other stories also look extremely intriguing). I’d not heard of On The Premises before submitting to them, but I would definitely advise any emerging authors to check out their competitions as well as any readers hungering for new voices–they aim to boost the profile of unknown authors, and are also very pleasant to work with. Meaning new authors get more exposure, and eager readers get to be the first to experience exciting new authors. Everyone wins!

[Publishing] Dear Leader Tales

Delighted to be able to announce that my short story, The Scourge, will feature in Feral Cat PublishersDear Leader Tales, which is now out!

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As you can see, I’m in fantastic company and I’m very much looking forwards to seeing what the other authors have come up with for the theme. It’s a huge pleasure to get to work with a small press that’s passionate about putting out quality (and timely) fiction.

Available in both eBook and paperback, as of now.

[Publishing] Erato Update!

Hopefully I should have some more good news on the “stories coming out soon” front for you all in a little while, but here’s a taster:

I’ve just had the chance to view the galley proof of Erato by New Smut Project, which means I’ve just been able to see what other flash fiction I’m included alongside for the first time and I have to say it’s a treat! A little daunting to be in such illustrious company, but also very exciting.

A lot of the authors have really risen to the challenge presented by the flash-fiction format restrictions (1000-2000 words maximum to tell a whole story and, in this case, make it hot, interesting, and consensual) in a variety of inventive and often unusual ways. There are lots of fresh takes on ideas around sexuality and lots of strong authorial voices. Hopefully everyone else will also enjoy it.


Aside from entering a variety of writing contests and submitting to several anthologies and magazines (with occasional success!), I’ve been grappling with several new-to-me pieces of software and also digging through some of my old and highly disorganised files trying to pull together notes and references on a variety of different projects. One of the reasons I was in the habit for so long of doing all my work on a book over the course of one year was so that I couldn’t lose things as spectacularly as I have done this time…

Pro-tip: never call your files things like “collection of all stuffs.doc” unless you have a strong desire to never find the information you want, ever again, for about five years.

Now that museums are open again in the UK I’ve been taking the opportunity to get into a few exhibitions I didn’t get the chance to visit before lockdown (the Andy Warhol one at the Tate Modern, for example), and now that Soho has turned all al fresco in the evenings  I’m making the most of the city’s sudden passion for outdoor dining while it’s still possible.

Stay safe, fellow Covid-prisoners, and here’s hoping you’re getting through as much of your to-read pile as I have… or more.

[Publishing] Be A Tourist!

ALRIGHT I’LL STOP TEASING!

It’s here, it’s here, it’s available now!

“I have no idea what that is, who he is, why the fuck you’re asking me, or what the hell is happening,” Alec said, simply. […] “I don’t like you, I don’t like him, and you’ve probably resulted in me losing a job I only just got and had to bend over backwards to get by dragging me all over some bullshit hallucination and making me inexplicably late.”
Everything you believe about London is true.
At least, it’s true somewhere. What’s also true is that Alec Archer Crowe and Opportunity Chioma Oluchukwu definitely didn’t ask to be involved in any version of London other than the one they’re in, and yet here they are: faced with disintegrating realities, constantly-changing rules no one will explain, and the world’s smelliest witch. Something is horribly, terribly wrong… and not just Alec’s sleep schedule.

Available in print (Lulu), .mobi (Amazon UK and other regional Amazon sites), and a variety of eBook formats on the majority of eBook platforms, NOW.

A Tourist’s Guide To The Ideal Book About The Ideal London

I know it’s all go around here at the moment! Romance novellas, zines, cut-ups poetry, absolutely ceaseless bids for your attention (and sometimes money). And now the forthcoming novel as well!
But what about this novel that I’ve provided fairly scanty details on?

(Yeah, this one).

Mostly I’d like to avoid spoiling people for this parallel-realities urban fantasy whirlwind, but it’s only fair that I give you all a little bit to go on. After all, there are a lot of really, really good books out there–why read this one?
Before I am summarily extinguished by impostor syndrome and badly-timed modesty: because it represents the apotheosis of several tropes that recur in my books, for one thing. Intractable, self-loathing protagonist struggling with a hidden secret? Check. Women with agendas and goals that have nothing to do with male approval? Check. Rules and realities that don’t conform to the expectations we have from the real world? Check. Atrocious jokes? Che–my jokes are very funny, actually. The power of narrative? Check. Supporting cast of absolute dysfunctional weirdos? Check. At least one character guaranteed to form someone’s lesbian awakening? Hell yes. And London as its own complex, chaotic, untameable character? Literally the core of the story.
(“But Derek,” you say, “I’ve never read anything of yours before, how do I know if they’re recurring tropes or not?” fear not: I have a back catalogue ready for you).
We got: weird artefacts! Witches (possibly)! Acerbic commentary on privilege (by the bucketload), riots (you’re probably sick of those by now but this was written in 2017 when things were very slightly less rioty), fashion critique, mythology (so much mythology!), ghosts, dashing highwaymen, horrible incels, flying cars, and a talking dog!
We got non-binary characters! We got multiple archivists! We got the weird off-milk smell at Highbury & Islington North-Bound Platforms which has persisted for literally twenty years without any explanation!
And mice. So, so many mice.
If none of that appeals to you, may I also point out that the cover is quite fetching and the items on the front all relate to the plot. But you have to read it to find out how, obviously. That’s how books work.
“Alright,” you cry, “I am convinced. Where can I buy this?”
Many places! But not quite yet. Hang around–the next post on this blog will let you know.

[PUBLISHING] Coming soon: Tourist’s Guide to the Ideal London

“I have no idea what that is, who he is, why the fuck you’re asking me, or what the hell is happening,” Alec said, simply. […] “I don’t like you, I don’t like him, and you’ve probably resulted in me losing a job I only just got and had to bend over backwards to get by dragging me all over some bullshit hallucination and making me inexplicably late.”
Book cover of A Tourist's Guide To The Ideal London
Everything you believe about London is true.
At least, it’s true somewhere. What’s also true is that Alec Archer Crowe and Opportunity Chioma Oluchukwu definitely didn’t ask to be involved in any version of London other than the one they’re in, and yet here they are: faced with disintegrating realities, constantly-changing rules no one will explain, and the world’s smelliest witch. Something is horribly, terribly wrong… and not just Alec’s sleep schedule.
Coming SOON from House of D Publications: a car crash of realities across multiple Londons which questions the concept of consistency, memory, and meaning–and just why the hell you’re paying so much rent to live in a city that’s built as much on mythology as it is on mud.