2023 Writing Review and 2024 Preview

Looks like it’s time for another year-end writing review and a look at next year’s writing projects.

If you read my 2022 review, you may remember me wrapping it up by listing three possible 2023 projects, starting with a submission to Castle Bridge Media.  That short story, an homage to Jonny Quest called “QED: The Cosmic Spectre,” was accepted and published in the latest installment of CBM’s Castle of Horror anthology series, Thinly Veiled Saturday Mournings.

The second project was a short story “featuring an overlooked pulp hero created by one of the medium’s most popular authors” and it has been accepted by Pro Se Publications. There is no release date yet, but “Clan of the Red Ditch” will appear in Pro Se’s upcoming Black Bat anthology. Created by Lester Dent, the man most responsible for Doc Savage, the Black Bat is a mysterious masked World War I aviator and espionage agent “whose face no man has ever seen,” and he appeared in only one story, “The Blue Ghost Patrol,” published in the October 1929 issue of Flying Aces. Aviation adventure magazines featuring war birds, sky hawks, and red-hot aces enjoyed a brief but intense popularity during the height of the pulp era—you might recall seeing the book Pat Nelson: Ace of Test Pilots in Mrs. Shields’ confiscation desk drawer in A Christmas Story­—and as a genre it has always perplexed me. It just has. So when this opportunity popped up I thought I’d try writing one, especially since it also afforded me the chance to work with a character created by one of the most popular writers of the early 20th century.

Third but not least, my and Trey Baldwin’s long-anticipated-but-worth-the-wait comics adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s seminal weird tale “The Call of Cthulhu” was published by Caliber Comics near the end of the year. The publication of this comic is bittersweet because it represents the last project that I worked on in any capacity with Caliber’s publisher Gary Reed, who unexpectedly passed away in 2016. It sort of feels like the end of an era. Call of Cthulhu is the tenth adaptation in my Lovecraft’s Worlds anthology series and my second collaboration with Trey. And for your viewing pleasure, the Call of Cthulhu promo video appears below. Produced by the incredible Paul Huenemann and his award-winning Right Purdy Animation studio, it also features “The Chosen” by Midnight Syndicate as the soundtrack.

I also mentioned in last year’s review that I planned to concentrate on two novel manuscripts. Well, feel free to wag your finger and tch-tch-tch your tongue because neither manuscript got finished. To be fair an unexpected opportunity to pitch the idea for one manuscript to its intended publisher came up but the publisher rejected it. Which… you know… was disappointing, but it did save me from wasting oodles of time better spent writing something else.  As for that second manuscript, I am still working on it and my intention really is to finish it and submit it before the end of 2024, but that’s all I can say right now.

Something else I hinted at in last year’s review is that I may or may not write some more short stories.  Well, I did, which is why that second manuscript remains a work in progress.

Angel Neighbours by S. Clarke Hawbaker

That Sherlock Holmes/H. P. Lovecraft pastiche I mentioned, “The Adventure of the Immutable Scourge,” was published this year in Belanger Books’ two-volume anthology Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of H. P. Lovecraft, and my traditional Holmes pastiche “The Adventure of the Crossing Sweeper” was published in MX Publishing’s New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes anthology series edited by David Marcum. I then turned around and adapted “Crossing Sweeper” into “The Adventure of the Tortoise Shell,” my first radio drama for Imagination Theater’s Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in a decade. Meanwhile my Feril Nightlinger short story “Sins of the Werewolf” appeared in issue ten of Occult Detective Magazine, and my new Victorian occult detective Angel Neighbours made her debut in “At Night She Walks” in issue three of Dracula Beyond Stoker.

Which brings us to what lies ahead.

I have submitted another radio script to Imagination Theater, this one an adaptation of my horror story “Expiration Date.” If accepted, I am hoping it will be broadcast in 2024. I also submitted another short story to Pro Se featuring yet another little-known pulp character, J. Paul Suter’s Horatio Humberton, the Necrologist Sleuth. No word yet on rather it has been accepted. Meanwhile Angel Neighbours will hopefully appear in a second story, and a couple of unique Holmes pastiches I am currently writing will be accepted. And because it seems to be the norm now, I imagine one or two other stories will spring up due to unexpected opportunities. And since no writing review is complete without a tease, there may be a really cool and very big possibility that has me keeping my fingers crossed that I hope I will be able to talk about in the coming months.

And there we are.

Normally this is where I would wrap things up, but this year I want to mention a couple of personal things before I go.

To quote Rocky Balboa, “The older I get, the more things I got to leave behind. That’s life.” It is a tragic milestone in your life when someone you never met but whose talents greatly influenced your creativity dies. In 2023 that was Jimmy Buffett, an unbelievably gifted musician and singer and one of the finest American writers of the past few decades. It is heartbreaking, though, when people who have been dear friends for most of your life pass away, and the older you get the more such friends you have to leave behind. Since December 22, 2022 I have lost three: Dennis Stick, Lori Edler-Hawbaker and Professor J. Kenneth Kuntz. At this point I should probably share a memory about each of these wonderful people but that would be giving away more of what I have already lost, so I am just going to let their obituaries speak for them.  If you have lost anyone dear to you recently, please know that you have my sympathy.

But to quote another movie character, Professor Echo (Lon Chaney) in The Unholy Three (1925 & 1930), “That’s all there is to life. A little laugh. A little tear.” One of the excellent counterbalances to growing older is that–if you’re lucky–you also become a grandparent, and that is going to happen in 2024! It is a long-awaited blessing and we cannot wait to meet the newest member of our family and experience this incredible gift from God.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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