Spectral Press: 2012 retrospective

Spectral Press logoIt’s hard to know where to start when it comes to describing the year Spectral has had. 2011, the imprint’s very first year, was great in itself, and we here at Spectral Towers couldn’t have foreseen how the press would have been taken to the hearts of genre and book lovers everywhere around the globe. Spectral received kudos from writers, readers and bloggers, we gained a few accolades here and there, even making one magazine’s Publisher of the Year. This had gone better than our wildest imaginations had dared to venture.

As you can imagine, we thought that topping 2011’s success was going to be difficult but, if there’s one thing that Spectral isn’t afraid of, it’s commitment. We were determined to do better, to keep publishing great literature, and to developing Spectral into something special. And, judging by the twelve months we’ve just had, it would appear that we have exceeded expectations again.

The second year of a project is often the most difficult – a reputation has been established and standards have been set, both of which have to be fulfilled and maintained at the very least or, as is preferable, bettered in some way. Our unspoken manifesto at the very beginning was simple – to bring quality short stories in the ghostly/supernatural vein to discerning readers, and present them to a high physical and literary standard. That, we like to think, we’ve managed to continue with our acclaimed line of chapbooks, this year publishing fiction by the World Fantasy Award-nominated Simon Kurt Unsworth (Rough Music), as well as Alison Littlewood (The Eyes of Water), Mark West (What Gets Left Behind) and relative newcomer David Tallerman (the latter winning the Spectral Press/This Is Horror short story writing competition earlier in the year with The Way of the Leaves).  Neil Williams, the wizard of photo manipulation, continued to shine in the cover artwork department, thereby consolidating the look of the Spectral ‘brand’ (if we can call it that without sounding pretentious) and Mark West helping everything along with his short promotional videos. Reviews for all have been very positive, solidifying Spectral’s position as an imprint to watch.

Spectral Press also expanded a little this year by introducing a new line of publications, the Spectral Visions series of novellas, starting with Gary Fry’s The Respectable Face of Tyranny in May and followed, in September, by the larger than life John Llewellyn Probert’s The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine. Both of these books were wrapped in gorgeous covers – by Neil Williams (based on a photograph by Philip Haigh) and JD Busch respectively – and received goodly amounts of praise, both in terms of the stories and the presentation. On top of that, this December saw Spectral publish its first ever anthology, The 13 Ghosts of Christmas, which is our small attempt to revive an old Victorian/Edwardian midwinter tradition. Again, this has received a warm welcome from bloggers and reviewers alike, making a good start to this projected annual series of spooky midwinter/Yule/Christmas collections.

On the accolades front, one of last year’s chapbook tales, King Death by Paul Finch, was republished in Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012 anthology. Paul’s chapbook was also nominated in the British Fantasy Awards in the Short Fiction category. In the same Awards, Spectral Press was nominated for the PS Publishing Independent Press Award – even though we didn’t win, the nomination validated all the hard work that had been put into the imprint over the previous year. Getting nominated for the first year of its career is something of an achievement in itself, another facet which has helped cement its growing reputation with not just the book-buying public but also the writers whose works we want to feature in future publications.

Others have also cited Spectral books in their end of year assessments, people like Anthony Watson, Mark West, and the This Is Horror Awards (in which several Spectral publications have been nominated again this year): Gef Fox of the Wag the Fox blog named What Gets Left Behind as being one of his novels/novellas of the year: and Jim McLeod’s Ginger Nuts of Horror blog named Spectral as its Publisher of the Year. The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine seems to be a favourite amongst more than a few people, closely followed by Mark West’s What Gets Left Behind. Famed anthologist Ellen Datlow recommended Alison Littlewood’s Mexico-set chapbook The Eyes of Water for next year’s Bram Stoker Awards, plus Ellen said a few nice things about Spectral in her latest annual The Best Horror of the Year volume. Stephen Jones, another famed editor/anthologist, also said nice things about the imprint in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.

And so, we look forward to 2013 – a year which promises to be even better than this past twelvemonth. There will be novellas from Stephen (Ghostwatch) Volk and Tim Lebbon, chapbooks from Paul Kane (who will also have a collection of his supernatural/ghost fiction out at the end of the year), Terry Grimwood, Simon Bestwick and British Fantasy Award-winner Angela Slatter, plus the first collected chapbook volume (with new material included) in the summer and, of course, the 2013 edition of the Christmas Annual plus a special illustrated hardback edition of Paul Finch’s novella Sparrowhawk. However, a good publisher doesn’t stand still – I have already started planning 2014’s publications, one of which will be a novella from one of Britain’s finest writers working today, Conrad Williams.

From the above that there was much to celebrate in 2012 – and we here at Spectral Press will be working even harder in 2013 to better the last year in every way possible. Two years ago, we could never have envisaged the kind of impact that the imprint would have, nevertheless there is still much to do to get it to where we would like it to be. We thank all those who have been with us so far, and we further hope that you will be able to come along with us on our third year of publication.

All it remains for us to do is to wish everyone a Prosperous and Productive 2013!! Onwards and upwards, as we are wont to say….

A double review and some news

Today’s review is a double one, courtesy of the fine folk at Shock Totem, specifically a gentleman by the name of John Boden. Like his previous review of Spectral chapbooks for the same magazine, he’s chosen to review two at once and this time out it’s the turn of Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall and Paul Finch’s King Death. John loved the first two Spectral publications, so does he feel the same about Volumes III & IV? Click here to find out!


After yesterday’s announcement and call for submissions for the first Spectral Christmas Ghost Story Annual 2012, I have now moved that blog to a new page so that access to the guidelines is permanent until the deadlin of June 30th. If you’re interested and want to know whatt you need to do to submit, then please just click on the relevant page. Thanks!!


Cast your minds back a couple of months, to when I announced that Spectral will be publishing an annual Christmas Ghost Story anthology, starting in December 2012, in the same tradition as the annuals of the Victorian/Edwardian era. In that same blog I said I would release details of the submission process this January, and that time has duly arrived – so interested parties please read the following carefully!!


Unlike the chapbooks, this is an open call for submissions from ALL authors (including those writers already published, or are due to be published, by Spectral). What we are looking for are ghostly/supernatural tales of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, set around the time of the Christmas/Mid-winter celebrations. Think of the kind of thing that MR James and Charles Dickens would have written at this time of year and you’ll be on the right track. The stories should primarily rely on atmosphere, tension, suspense, suggestion and implication to send shivers down peoples’ spines: whilst we are not averse to something of the more visceral kind (provided it works within the context of the story), we are not looking for slasher/unhinged psychopath with a sharp instrument/serial killer or gore-filled fiction.

The final format or formats has/have yet to be decided.

Please send submissions, in a Word attachment please, to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com, with the subject line ‘Spectral Christmas Ghost Story Annual 2012 – submission’. Please do NOT paste your story into the body of the email – if this happens then your submission will be ignored. The deadline for stories to reach us is June 30th 2012 – stories submitted after this date will not be considered. All stories must be original, with the copyright belonging to the author in question, and must not have been published or submitted elsewhere. The editor will endeavour to acknowledge receipt of stories received, but if there is a veritable deluge then you may not hear from us immediately. The authors of the chosen stories will be notified of their acceptance in the second-half of the year, when work on the book and editing begins.

So all you writers out there, even though 2012 has barely begun, get your thinking caps on and start coming up with ideas for this exciting new anthology. Who knows, this might be the start of a revival of a venerable tradition!!

Look forward to hearing from you!!

EDIT –  there WILL be a small payment for each story accepted, plus copies of the physical book for each author.

A reader’s mini-review, a reminder and some news

Today’s bloggy missive starts off with a mini-review of Paul Finch’s King Death from a reader, Riju Ganguly, which the good man posted to Goodreads and to which he also gave 5 stars. Here’s what he said:

A short-crisp piece from one of my favourite authors, displaying all the hallmarks of his penmanship: rich descriptions that enliven 14th Century England and the Black Death devastating its contours, brilliant portrayals of the two characters (the mercenary Rodric and the mysterious boy), and the stage-by-stage construction of the story within a few pages. And special commendation for Spectral Press for bringing out such an exquisite chapbook. Recommended.

Many thanks for the little write-up Riju – the original posting can be read here:


I would encourage any readers of Spectral publications to send in their reviews to me for putting on the blog – if you have one then please send them to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Thanks!!


Don’t forget that the Spectral/This Is Horror short story writing competition is still ongoing, where the lucky winner will get to have their winning tale published as a chapbook as well as receiving a lifetime subscription to every single publication that Spectral puts out. This is a great chance for aspiring writers to get their work out there, so get your typing fingers dancing and start writing!! Details of the competition can be found here.


Or, rather, a heads-up on a blog post to be posted here on Monday about submissions to the first Spectral Christmas Ghost Story annual, to be published in early December 2012. So, if you fancy writing something seasonal to be read to an enthralled audience sitting around a roaring log fire on Christmas Eve this year, then this annual anthology might just be your thing – make a date to come back here on Monday to get all the gen on submissions to Spectral’s first short story anthology.