The Blogpile

(Previously known as the ‘BibliBlography’; a list of some significant steps in this meandering, writerly journey)

2024

  • ‘The Clockmaker’: Now available in Issue 34 of ‘The Deadlands’ magazine: find it here. What an amazing cover!
  • Fish Publishing Short Story Prize:  Very pleased to have had three stories long-listed, one of which proceeded to the short-list, in this prestigious international literary competition; see full long- and short-lists here.
  • Story accepted by Roads Less Travelled  (new magazine of Extraordinary Fiction from Midnight Street Press): More news on this soon!

2023

  • Blogger support: ‘Cartoon Life’ has been getting some lovely reviews, including one from the ever-awesome ReaderDad; find it here. 
  • Where stories come from and From short stories to novels: The superb writers’ website and resource, ‘writing.ie’, has published (i) my incoherent thoughts on where stories come from and the inspiration for ‘Cartoon Life’, and (ii) my vague mumblings on the issues involved in making the leap from writing short stories to constructing novels. Read the former article here, and the latter article here.
  • MSM: ‘Cartoon Life’ got a great little review in the Daily Mail!
  • My second novel, ‘The Cartoon Life and Loves of a Stupid Man’, will be published on 28th Nov: See this page for key details. Had a fantastic launch party at the evergreen, ever-unique Vout-o-Reenee’s, along with fellow Deixis Press author Richard Gadz. Vout-o-Reenee’s is, of course, a private club for the surrealistically distinguished. I wouldn’t be seen dead in any other kind of club.
  • Story accepted by The Deadlands magazine: More news on this soon!
  • Slump: Have done neither reading nor any significant writing for months — too many other demands on my time. Decided to cut out social media (oh, the relief!) & focus more on family and health. Even so, managed to send off a few short stories written last year, so that’s something.
  • Only connect: No book is for all readers, inevitably; so when, as a writer, you find a reader who truly understands and appreciates what you have done — especially when you write things which are rather ‘different’ from the norm — it is extraordinarily encouraging and heartening. Suddenly, you are less alone. That’s how I felt when I read this beautiful, thoughtful and analytical review in Strange Horizons magazine: Hangdog Souls. It is a greatly extended, more in-depth version of a brief overview published around Christmas last year, and it pleased me enormously on two levels. First of all, of course, it is lovely to read statements like this: “Haunting, harrowing, and stirring, these stories mark the arrival of a highly original work by a bold new imagination in British-Indian science fiction, capable of weaving elements of cosmic horror, science fiction, and history into prose of both crisp scientific precision and mellifluous aesthetic flow”. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, other comments indicate that the book has worked, at least for this reader/reviewer, in the way intended; for example: “By the end of the novel, any reference to moonflowers, eucalyptus, marigolds, or butterflies, amongst others, no matter how innocuous, instantly alerts the reader to the possibility of impending death and danger . . . even if the characters in the story remain blissfully unaware. To wit, there are about eight other regularly recurring motifs that thread their way through the tales to offer glimpses of themselves to the discerning reader, and which are pulled together masterfully in the final tale to showcase Joan’s command of the English language“. A discerning reader indeed. Thank you, Prashanth Gopalan.
  • Endorsement by Professor Clive Bloom: So pleased to see Hangdog Souls endorsed by Clive Bloom, (Professor in Residence, The Larkin Centre for Poetry and Writing, University of Hull; Editor, The Palgrave Gothic Series; Editor, Gothic Horror – A guide for students and readers), who gives this lovely description of ‘Hangdog Souls’:  . . . a strange and complex world which combines William Beckford’s Vathek with Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer and seamlessly joins them to the mysteries of the Bhagavad Gita, the peculiarities of rare butterflies and the space of the laboratory . . . sultry, strange and forbidding, fantastical and mysterious”.
  • Endorsement by Professor Jerry Hogle: Absolutely delighted to see Hangdog Souls endorsed by Jerry Hogle, Professor Emeritus of English, University Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona, USA. Jerry is eminent in the Gothic studies field, and has published works such as ‘The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction’ and ‘The Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic’ (both in the ‘Cambridge Companions to Literature’ series). I will put the full text of the endorsement on the Hangdog Souls page; here is an extract: “While always connected to southern India, the settings, structures, and character mind-sets in all these tales are profoundly shadowy spaces drawn back towards a still-hovering antiquity that threatens to engulf them in darkness, death, and guilt even as they strive for survival, enlightenment, and love in increasingly modern times. “

2022

  • Strange Horizons review: Strange Horizons magazine published this lovely review of Hangdog Souls, by Prashanth Gopalan: here is an extract: ‘To someone of South Indian descent raised at the intersection of Indian and Western cultures, it was refreshing to see elements of my cultural background expressed with verve, nuance, and inventiveness, without a heavy imprint of colonial moralism‘.
  • Long-listed for Ellen Datlow’s ‘Best Horror of the Year’#14: My story, ‘Unmaskings’, published in Weird Horror #2 last year, made the long-list for this redoubtable annual anthology of modern horror! Very pleased! The original story is reviewed here by the inimitable Des Lewis, and is available in print and electronic forms here: Undertow Publications
  • Hangdog Souls reviews: Have been getting some lovely reviews for ‘Hangdog Souls’: here is an extract from a recent one: ” . . . a complex and wildly ambitious novel which makes no apologies for bringing together contrasting genres and influences – from historical fiction to the Gothic, from intergenerational family drama to “realist” fiction, from supernatural horror to sci-fi, all infused with elements of philosophy, myth and spiritualism and conveyed in rich and beautiful prose.  Hangdog Souls is quite unlike other novels I have read recently. If I were pressed by an intrigued potential reader to compare it to other novels, just to give an idea of its “feel”, two books come to mind:  David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas with which it shares its polystylistic, segment-based approach and Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, which also features a Faustian or “Wandering Jew” figure in the context of a heavily metaphysical Gothic novel.” (Thanks Joe, at Ends of the Word blog! It’s wonderful when readers ‘get’ what you are writing about!)
  • Publication day! ‘Hangdog Souls’ has been refined, edited and released — all thanks to Angel Belsey (Deixis Press), with critical input from Anil Menon, Miranda Miller and Krysta Winsheimer! The cover, created by Prasad Natarajan , should — will, I hope — become iconic. You can find it in all good bookshops, naturally . . . I will post reviews (only the good ones, of course), on the Hangdog Souls page of this website. Launch party was at the amazing Vout-o-Reenee’s — an extraordinary venue created by the equally extraordinary Sophie Parkin — and a great time was had, I think, by all. Reading my work aloud, in public, for the first time turned out to be unexpectedly nerve-wracking!
  • ‘The Puppy Farm’ reviews: Just noticed what Goodreads reviewers have been saying about my story, ‘The Puppy Farm’, published in the Night Terror Novels anthology ‘This is not a horror story’. So gratifying to see that readers appreciate not just the horror, but also the deeper issues raised! Here are some extracts:
    • “This contains some of the darkest and strangest stories I’ve read in a long time. They stick in your head and make you question things you’d never considered before (looking at you, The Puppy Farm!)”
    • “The Puppy Farm, by Marc Joan: sci-fi at its most horrifying. I love to hate this one. Made me question my ethics and humanity’s right to continue existing.”
    • “This story stood out for many reviewers out there and it deserves every word of praise. Marc brings up some serious morality issues with remarkable detail. How far is too far for scientific progress? Oh you’re siding with this character! Well, how about now?
      And that chilling finale — the cherry on top 👏🏻”
  • Publication approaches! Spent the last few months editing my first two novels, & therefore had no time for actual writing, not even short stories — I’ve hardly even done any submitting of finished stories. Looking forward to getting back to creative work, hopefully by the summer.

2021

  • Two stories long-listed in the 2021 Exeter Story Prize (full listings here: Exeter Prize ).
  • Story proceeded to second round (top 5%) of the Bridport Short Story Contest. It went no further, but I am happy with this endorsement!
  • Novel accepted! Absolutely delighted that my first novel, set in India over the period 1799-2059, has been taken on by the exciting new publisher, Deixis Press: Deixis Press More details soon!
  • ‘Puppy Farm’ published in the Night Terror Novels anthology, Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur(Available here: This is not a horror story).
  • ‘Pieces on Earth’ published by The Dread Machine (semi-pro market): The Lord of Junk is born among us — God help us all . . .  (Many thanks to Tina and Monica for skilful editing and astute suggestions, which together improved my story so much). Available here: Pieces on Earth
  • ‘Unmaskings’ published in Weird Horror#2: Reviewed here by the inimitable Des Lewis, and available in print and electronic forms here: Undertow Publications
  • Story long-longlisted in Brick Lane Bookshop 2021 literary fiction competition: (Full long-longlist here: Brick Lane Bookshop 2021 Prize).
  • Story short-listed in 2021 Short Fiction / University of Essex International Short Story Prize: (One of 7 short-listed from ~780 entries!)
  • ‘Madame and Yves’ published in Nightscript #7! (Delighted to have a piece accepted for this prestigious anthology of strange and darksome literary horror! Reviewed here by the still inimitable Des Lewis, and available here: Nightscript 7).

2020

  • ‘The Exchange’ awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in Gatehouse Press New Fiction Prize, 2020: This story is a stand-alone component of my yet-to-be published novel set in India over the period 1799-2059. Thanks so much to the Gatehouse Press team for this encouragement — it makes all the difference! (Gatehouse New Fiction Winners)
  • ‘Pieces on Earth’ accepted by The Dread Machine (semi-pro market)
  • ‘Unmaskings’ accepted for Weird Horror magazine (Undertow Publications)! (Don’t play games during Masquerade . . .)
  • Novella accepted for forthcoming Kyanite Publishing anthology: (But alas, a couple of weeks after signing the contract, Kyanite closed its doors . . .)
  • Three Red Tulips: Like ‘Swiss Watch’, this is one that I wrote some time ago; I’m very pleased that I had another go at sending it out this year, with the following results:
    • Long-listed in William Van Dyke Short Story Prize: One of 20 semi-finalists from over 400 entries — nice to know, so thank you to the judges and readers at Ruminate Magazine!
    •  Shortlisted / selected for publication in Aesthetica Creative Writing Award: Great to be published in this Annual for a second time! Thanks to the judges and readers at Aesthetica – I am very grateful to be included. (Shortlist )
  • Swiss Watch: So pleased that this story has finally seen the light of day! It was written about five years ago for the Comma Press anthology, ‘Mirror in the Mirror’. After publication of this much-delayed anthology was (apparently) abandoned, I started sending the story out elsewhere, with the following results:
    • Honourable Mention (top 4% of entries) in CRAFT 2020 Short Fiction prize, CRAFT Prize
    • Long-listed in the 2020 Exeter Story Prize (long-list here: Exeter Prize) but I withdrew it because it was the . . .
    • Winner of the Spencer A. Parker Memorial Award for Fiction (Punt Volat Magazine)! The story and an interview are available here: Parker Award
  • Two stories selected as finalists in Spencer A. Parker Memorial Award for Fiction (Punt Volat Magazine) (The stories were ‘Swiss Watch’ (see above), and ‘The Dairymen’)
  • ‘Pieces on Earth’ received Special Mention in Allegory Magazine Vol. 38/65: (Later accepted by ‘The Dread Machine’ — see above)
  • Ahead of the Game (Sein und Werden): (You can buy immortality — but not love)
  • The Inheritance: (Reprinted in DBND Anthology ‘Ghost Stories for Starless Nights’. Buy it here: Anthology )

2019

  • Creative hiatus: 2018 and the first part of 2019 were difficult, mainly due to bereavements. The consequent gap in productivity from this period is apparent . . .

2018

  • BBC National Short Story Award: “We don’t publish an official long-list for the award and, whilst your entry didn’t make the official shortlist, we and the judges want to let you know that it did make the top 60, from almost 1000 entries, which is a huge achievement.”
  • Help Marcus (Lighthouse Literary Journal): (Deception or self-deception or both? The perils of ambiguity . . . )
  • Runner-up in Ink Tears Short Story Prize: (Full list of winners here)
  • Special Mention in Galley Beggar Short Story Prize: (“We also have a number of special mentions, for several stories which didn’t make it onto the longlist but had a fan – or fans – on the judging panel”: Tweeted here )
  • Board Stiff (Hypnos): (My attempt at an old-style ghost story —  set in the English winter, but seasoned with a dash of Jamaican darkness)

2017

  • Seeing John (Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual; finalist in 2017 Award)(There’s nothing crueller than children)
  • Story long-listed for Brighton Prize: (Now revised and submitted elsewhere)
  • Hue and Cry (Chroma Magazine): (Unspeakable colour! But not always uneatable?)
  • In Memoriam (Sci Phi Journal): (If selfhood is a thing made from memories, would capturing an entire set of memories create a thing that is self-aware?)
  • Jeopardy ad Absurdum (Sci Phi Journal): (Are we more than the sum of our parts? If not, which part holds the locus of moral responsibility? How much of ourselves can we remove before we start to erode the ‘I’?)
  • The Speckled God (Unsung Stories): (Horror with a South Indian flavour: see here for reviews)

2016

  • The Fisherman’s Wife (Structo): (Every Cornish port has its dark side)
  • Glass Half Empty (Literary Orphans): (When love has supped and left . . .) READ
  • Packed Lunch (Danse Macabre): (Okay, this is just horrible .  . . sorry)
  • Letting Go (Bookends Review): (That merciless sea again . . .)
  • Semper Tres, Semper Tristis (Sein und Werden): (The love triangle extended through time is like a spiral of corners, with the same characters trapped in the same corners — forever) 

2015

  • Thirty-Five Dolls (Bohemyth): (Just be kind to people; little else matters) READ
  • The Butterfly Effect (Smokelong Quarterly): (The inability to forget can be worse than the loss of memory) READ
  • Scales (STORGY): (Even the smallest memories can return to whip their bearer with guilt)
  • In Vino Veritas (Danse Macabre): (Quel cepage!)
  • Lest You Remember (Madcap Review): (Messing with memories again — it never ends well)
  • The Inheritance (Hypnos): (I suppose you could call this ‘Fenland regeneration’ . . . in any case, an homage to M.R. James)
  • Another’s Place (Apeiron Review): (A tourist’s story . . . from the backwaters of South India. What does it mean? All shall be revealed; soon)
  • Sennen Coven (Hypnos): (Once again, the split sternum of Cornwall reveals a black, black heart)