The 1031 Story Challenge Is Back!

Happy October, one and all! The leaves are changing, pumpkin spice is a thing again, and - most exciting of all, of course - it's time for the annual 1031 Story Challenge!

What is it?

The clue's in the name. Every October, in time for Halloween, I challenge anyone who wants to take part to write a short story before the end of the month. There's no limit on genre, style, form, or even if it's actually a story. Artwork is welcome. Interpretative dance is strongly encouraged. 

1031 comes from the U.S.-style date for Halloween - 10.31.2015, this year. In the past stories have generally fallen into two camps: those that try to get in under 1,031 words (my preferred challenge) and those that incorporate the number 1,031 in any way they like. You're welcome to write whatever you want (keeping in mind that children may be reading the stories).

What happens to the stories?

Your stories are you own, and this is nothing but a fun way to get a group of writers together. There's no prize and no copyright claim. Usually I offer to publish the stories here on my blog, though you are also welcome to publish on your own site and send me a link to add to the others. 


For fun. For art. Because October's a great time to feel inspired and write a new story.

I'm in. What now?

Get crackin'. If you'd like me to put your story on this site, e-mail it to me at simonphilipclark[at]gmail.com. The challenge ends on October 31, though only in spirit. You can find me on twitter as @sipclark - and if you know someone who you think could take part, give them a poke.

I'm hoping this year's 1031 Story Challenge will be the best yet, but last year's is going to be hard to beat - Martin Stewart, who took part for the first time, ended up getting a book deal from Penguin based on his 1031 Story Challenge entry. He's set the bar pretty high...

Happy writing, all.

(If you're still confused, here's my story from a couple of years ago, The Choice of Stone, to give you a taster.)


Books and Blogging: Marketing Isn't Community

Starting new blog posts with an apology about how long it's been since I blogged has become a tradition here, but - yes, once again - I'm hoping to change that. When I started this site it was simply a way of reaching out into the world, sharing some opinions, and joining a community. It was a very different blog, and in retrospect I think it was a better place. During the last couple of years, it's morphed - slowly and without me really realising - from a place for talking to a place for advertising. I've started posting when I have news about my books and my stories - but, actually, that's not what I want this place to be. It's great fun to share new projects and new deals, and I know my publicist would tell me to shout about my books from the rooftops, but readers are more savvy than ever, and in a social media world, it doesn't take long for marketing-dressed-as-friendship to turn sour.

Mind you, as a writer, it's never easy to find the balance between hiding your work and earning a living. Part of the contract between my publishers and me (not the literal, legal contract, but the relationship in general) is that they pay for the book, and I help sell it. A reclusive author is all well and good, but hundreds of people have worked hard to get my books into the world, and you don't want to be childish when they ask you to help spread the news.

So - can I save this blog and turn it back into a place that's about writing and writers and readers and books, and not just about one particular book and one particular publication day? I hope so.

Here's one thing I'm looking forward to - in just over a week, I'm launching the 1031 Story Challenge for its third year. More on that to come (but the gist is easy: we all write short stories, and there's no prizes, and everyone's happy). For now, I will actually get back to writing, and leave you with some of the best books I've read lately.

A Series of Good Books in No Particular Order


Win a Copy of the Eren Paperback

It's one week until Eren comes out in paperback in the UK - and that sounds like a good excuse for a give away. I'm excited about the paperback - as well as looking absolutely beautiful (thank you, people at Atom), the book comes with bonus content; one of the Eren Tale short stories printed at the back, along with the story's artwork.

I think you'll agree, that's a Very Cool Thing.

For the next week, I'll be giving away two copies of the paperback here on the blog. I'll sign them, if you want, and send them off to the lucky winners. It's UK / Ireland only, I'm afraid (but if you're in the U.S., the book'll be out in hardback in October - right in time for Halloween. Oooh.)

So, here you go - it's time to win a copy of Eren in paperback. Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I Have Been Doing Things: YALC and Beyond

Yes. I know - it's been a while since I posted anything here. What can I say? Life keeps happening. I've found some time to write a brief update, though, mostly because so many Good and Exciting things have happened this month. I'm in the UK right now, and because of that I've been able to make it down to London for a couple of book-ish events.

First, the Children's Book Circle Summer Party. I hadn't really been planning on going, Jim Dean from YAYeahYeah told me it'd be fun, and he was not wrong.  The get-together - which is, as far as I can tell, mostly to celebrate making it through the first half of the year without all of publishing going mad - was held in The Library, a club just off Trafalgar Square. It was noisy and packed and great fun. I hung out with David Owen, who wrote Panther, and managed to avoid seeing Marieke Nijkamp (This Is Where It Ends, coming out in January) mostly because it was a bit hard to move around. There were probably other people I didn't see, but that was all OK, because (for me) the party was really just a warm up for...

I'm a bit late in posting my YALC update, but... I don't care. YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) is only in its second year, but that didn't diminish its popularity. The idea behind the whole thing is simple: Why doesn't the UK have a gathering focused just on young adult books? YALC was held as part of London Film and Comic Con and - for me - provided a calm and much more relaxed counterpoint to the chaos and vibrancy of the rest of the con.

It was awesome.

There's too much to share here, really, so I'll pick some highlights: Finally meeting Kat Ellis (Blackfin Sky), spending more time with David Owen, finally meeting Non Pratt (Trouble, Remix), seeing Patrick Ness and Ben Aaronovitch, visiting the Atom stand and finding paperbacks of Eren, seeing Cassandra Clare, meeting some readers (!), and - perhaps best of all - seeing how many people, young and old, were happy to spend two and a half days talking about their love of books. In a world with library closures and arts funding cuts, it's invigorating to see passion and honest love of stories.

For more of a feel, check out Booktrust's round-up videos:

So, that's what I've been up to. I will be posting something else exciting tomorrow - but until then, take care.


Monster - the Ninth Eren Tale

Blogging and updating is going to be a bit patchy over the next few weeks, due mostly to the fact I'm moving back to the UK in less than a fortnight. It's an exciting time - and I'm certainly looking forward to getting more involved in the UK book world - but right now, there's a lot to do, and it's eating into writing time quite a lot.

Still, some things are important, so instead of packing or organizing my life, I'm happy to be able to share the latest Eren Tale. Behold!

There's just three more tales to go now, and at the end (if I've got the timing right), the UK paperback of Eren will be out. If you've not been keeping up, the Eren Tales are a series of short stories and artwork meant to compliment the book without giving any spoilers. The art's all done by Brandon Rechten, who is a darn clever fellow, and you can read all the stories for free on www.erentales.com.

That's it, really. Read, enjoy, and - if you like it - share it around.


Screw Rules and Don't Worry: Post-Publishing Advice for New Writers

My book came out eight months ago. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and certainly the culmination of many years hard work. The change from 'unpublished' to 'published' is a strange one, marked on the one hand by a definite date and time, and on the other by changes that are hard to actually notice. In the months that followed publication, as I continue to write and immerse myself in the world of Being An Author, I've become more confident, a tad more cynical, and a whole lot more secure. This post brings together a few thoughts I've been playing with - thoughts Past Simon might have appreciated, if he'd bothered listening.

He probably wouldn't have. Past Simon's such a prick.

So - what shall I call this? A Collection of Calming Thoughts for New Writers, maybe. Or how about Things I Wish I'd Known When My First Book Came Out?

Maybe I'll just call it this: Things About Writing That Might Be True.

Yes. That sounds good.

1. What whatever the hell you want. No matter how many lists of rules, trends, tips and secrets you read, the ultimate limit is your own creativity. You can't write for the market, but you can't really write for other people, either. This is so, so important. You can and should write whatever you want to. When someone else does really well, or when you feel low, you'll be tempted to change. Don't.

2. Social media really doesn't matter that much. It helps if you use it well, and it hurts if you use it badly, but if you ever get to the point where blogging / Twitter / guests posting takes up too much time or stresses you out, screw it all and step away. Writing your book (read: finishing your book) is the only thing readers ultimately care about. If being online stops being fun, stop being online.

3. Writing well is better than writing quickly. Don't put out something you're OK with if you can wait a month / year / five years and put out something you're actually proud of.

4. Cling to other writers and artists. Be proactive in finding them, sharing with them, and following what they do. Writing can be lonely even when you're surrounded by friends. Encourage others. Be kind. Love their work and share it.


5. Fight your own jealousy and stamp down the desire to compare. Others will have success when you fail. Others will be prolific when you're stumped. You can't make good things happen if your heart is on other people's work, and not your own.

6. Get out. Get out your house, our your head, our of your comfort zone (also, get your head out of your arse). Writing is a part of life. Don't be consumed. Ask others how they're doing and remember to be kinder than you need to be.

7. Read. Read for pleasure. Read new friend's new books. Read new friends' old books. Read books from your childhood. Read the big summer blockbuster best seller. Read.

8. The death of publishing  (or artists / creativity / the West / the world / hope for our generation) has been greatly exaggerated. Online journalism often prizes clicks and virality over quality, and everyone knows writers love to read about themselves. This applies to articles about the worth / value of MFAs, traditional v. self publishing, the state of advances,  'won't somebody think of the children' pieces about YA, and all articles that set genres against each other. The world's in pretty good shape.

Right. Got that? Good. Deep breaths, everyone. Time to get back to the writing.


Update: Eren! Audiobook! Moving to the UK! Harry Potter! Roadtrip!

Hello, all. Time for an update.

Various things have been happening since I was last on here. The most Eren-related of them is easily the most exciting. The audiobook - an actual audiobook of actual Eren - is now available! It's UK only at the moment - though who knows what the future will bring? I've listened, am absolutely thrilled, and still find the whole thing utterly bizarre. Still... here are some links for those who want them:

Eren also got a lovely review in The Guardian - you can read it here.

Since I last updated this blog, two other big things happened. First, I went to Universal Studios Florida, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter blew my mind. The second was an event in Brooklyn with Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) - an inspiring, hilarious chat between the two that left me with lots to think about. These two things together - seeing authors get together, and seeing what can come from an author's work - had me thinking a lot about inspiration, where it comes from, and what it means.

(Side note: Harry Potter world is so bloody fantastic. It could have been so cheap and cheesey, and it really wasn't. Diagon Alley, with its hidden corners, its shops, its almost overwhelming detail, is one of the most magical and atmospheric places I've been. Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are just as entertaining, and the care and attention they've put into recreating the worlds of the book is mind blowing.)

I think seeing so many people, young and old, unashamedly loving these books was one of the best parts. There was no awkwardness, no holding back - just groups of friends and families thrilling in what they were seeing - and all of it because of seven books. It's a testament to what books can do and how they can change the world.

Displaying IMAG0998_1.jpgThe Gaiman / Handler evening was an odd, but thoroughly enjoyable, mix of free conversation, audience questions, and anecdotes. I think I took something out of it, though I'm still trying to work out what that was. The lesson that writers write, no matter what? That success isn't defined by anyone else? Probably both those things, and more.

Right now there's work going on behind-the-scenes on the paperback version of Eren, as well as my next novel, which will be published ... at some point. When there's news to share, I will share it. Until then, I need to keep on typing away.

Kat Ellis (Of Blackfin Sky fame) shared her top ten UKYA reads this week, and I was thrilled to see Eren up there. I should probably get better at keeping and sharing Eren's appearances online, but for now, I'm content. There's also more work happening on the (somewhat delayed, I know) Eren Tales. They are coming, I promise.

And ... that's it, for now. Well, almost. In June I'm going to be moving back to the UK to pursue my dream of being unemployed and confused by change. It's been seven years since I liked in the UK and, though I've visited many times, I'm still nervous. I hope it will turn out OK. I'm sure it will. Ha. Ha.

Before we leave the U.S., m'wife and I are taking an Epic West Coast Roadtrip from Las Vegas to Seattle, via the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, LA, and other places as well. I've read On The Road so I'm pretty sure I'm set. We're leaving in less than a month and it is very going to be mental.

More updates to come. Please buy my book? Yeah.


Eren Tales Continues

Morning, all. Yesterday, over on erentales.com, the eighth Eren Tale - Books - was published. This is the latest short story published as part of the project, and it's one of ym favourites - especially because of the artwork provided by Brandon Rechten. Eren Tales is shaping up to be exactly what I wanted; something that can work alongside the book, but also have a life of its own, providing snapshots and hints about the book without ever relying on it too much. If you haven't read it - or any of the other seven tales - you can check them all out, for free, over on the site.

Displaying IMAG0953.jpg
The photographer photographed. Ooh.
Thanks also go to Strand Book Store, New York, for allowing us to visit and take some time roaming the shelves and feeling inspired, while Brandon took some shots (one of which you can now see published with Books)

In other news, Tell The Story To Its End has been selected as a Junior Library Guild Spring 2015 Selection. It's a huge honor and I am absolutely thrilled and can't wait for June, when the hardback is published and I can finally - finally! - go and find my book in an actual, live bookshop. It is very exciting.

Happy reading, folks.


US Cover Reveal - Tell The Story To Its End

Happy new year, everyone. So, 2015 is here, and it's brought the cold with it. It's currently 10F here in New Jersey (that's -12C) and I'm fighting the temptation to go into hibernation. One of the things helping me keep going is the Very Exciting News that the US cover for my book, Eren - coming out as Tell The Story To Its End in the US - is ready and official and properly done.

So, I'm going to share it with you.

Tell The Story To Its End is coming out on June 9, 2015 (provisional) from St Martin's Griffin and, for those not familiar with the book...

People are keeping secrets from Oli. His mum has brought him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the countryside, but nobody will tell him why his dad where his father is. Why isn't he with them? Has something happened? Oli has a hundred questions, and only an old, empty house in the middle of an ancient forest for answers. But then he finds a secret of his own: there is a creature that lives in the attic…

Eren is not human.
Eren is hungry for stories.
Eren has been waiting for him.

Sharing his stories with Eren, Oli starts to make sense of what’s happening downstairs with his family. But what if it’s a trap? Soon, Oli must make a choice: learn the truth—or abandon himself to Eren’s world, forever.

I can't wait for US readers to get their hands on it. I'm still so proud of this odd, scary, confusing boo. So far, people seem to like it. Actually going into a bookshop and being able to find it is going to be insane - I've not been able to do this yet, what with living in the US and Eren coming out in the UK).

I'll probably grin a bit too much and scare away the booksellers.

Enough waffle, now. Time for the cover. HERE IT IS!

I know, right? LOOK AT IT. It's tremendously creepy and everyone at St Martin's has done a fantastic job. If you want, you can pre-order the book already (that's a link to my publishers' site, with links to Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Powells, Walmart, etc). And, as ever, the UK version is already out in hardback and ebook.

But wait, there's more! To celebrate all this, I'm going to give away two copies of the UK hardback, along with bookmarks and postcards, via Goodreads. The giveaway is pending approval from the Goodreads Overlords - so check back, or keep your eyes peel on Twitter (I'm @sipclark).

EDIT: It's approved! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eren by Simon P. Clark


by Simon P. Clark

Giveaway ends February 08, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

For those who wish, you can add Tell The Story To Its End to your to-read pile by clicking HERE.

And ... that's it. Look at my cover! Tell your friends! Whisper nice things in hallways and dark rooms. Think about it and dream about it and, when the book comes out, do all those things again. 2015 is going to be very awesome.

Happy reading, all.