Lamppost hugging for beginners by Christopher Stanley

2018 seems a long time ago now, but I remember it ended on a high. Sure I’d seen the pictures of the red carpet events put on by Create50 but I never thought I’d attend one. Then I saw my name on the shortlist for The Singularity. Then I found out that my story, Hive Mind, had made the final fifty. So I bought tickets to the double-launch party at the Cinema Museum in London, where I was overwhelmed by the sinister brilliance of the evening—the hazmat suits, the blood, the live exorcism—and the multitude of fantastic writers in attendance. Then I saw my name on the big screen.

Somehow, Hive Mind had won ‘best story’ in the competition.

After that, it was all a bit of a blur. I vaguely recall being on the stage with a microphone in my hand. I remember thinking, this must be a mistake. But it wasn’t. Moments like this are magical and rare. Having spent a fair bit of my writing career not winning things, I know how disheartening it can be, so any time someone connects with one of my stories, it’s an overwhelming experience.

I felt inspired.

In February 2019, my eight thousand word novelette, The Forest is Hungry, was rejected by the ever-excellent Weirdbook. It was a personal rejection, in which the editor was kind enough to highlight the area that tripped him up. Later that month, after I’d corrected the issues, Forest received a same-day acceptance from Demain Publishing, and in March 2019 it was released to the world as Book #16 in the ‘Short Sharp Shocks!’ series. It was my first standalone publication in my own name, and I thought I’d made the big time.

In October 2019, I found out that my flash fiction story, Fledglings, had won the Monster Flash contest run by The Arcanist. It was the second year running I’d won their flash fiction contest, and I guess the excitement must have gone to my head, because I immediately emailed them and asked if they would consider publishing a collection of my horror stories.

If I’d slept on it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. I’d have persuaded myself that I’m not ready. I never really believed they’d say ‘yes’ as they’d never published a single-author collection before. And yet, as luck would have it, they thought the idea was worth exploring.

Since then I’ve enjoyed every second of the rollercoaster ride to publication. I sent over a lot more stories than will feature in the collection, and even some of my prize-winning stories didn’t make the cut. I suggested several cover artists and, amazingly, we ended up with the Bram Stoker Award-winning author, Kealan Patrick Burke, who’s done an incredible job. And Sunday Times bestselling author, Christina Dalcher, was kind enough to write an introduction.

For me, this is proof that dreams can come true. It’s the result of never giving up, and always striving to be a better storyteller. I’m sure many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales was published by The Arcanist on 1 June 2020. It’s available from all good bookstores.

“The Lamppost Huggers is a Pandora’s box of bite sized terror. Delightfully macabre, grotesquely disturbing and insanely original…horror has a new name, and that is Christopher Stanley!” – Ross Jeffery, author of Juniper.

Christopher Stanley is the author of numerous prize-winning flash fictions, the darkest of which can be found spreading misery and mayhem in his debut collection, The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales (The Arcanist, June 2020). He’s also the author of the horror novelette, The Forest is Hungry (Demain Publishing, April 2019). Check out his website for updates, and follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings

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