Trusting the Unexpected Journey

Following the announcement of her new collection, Dark Crescent, Lyndsey Croal reflects on how a writing journey is rarely linear—sometimes, rejection doesn’t always mean the end of the writing journey.

In early April, I was delighted to announce my second upcoming collection, Dark Crescent, with Luna Press Publishing in 2025. This will follow my debut collection LIMELIGHT with Shortwave Publishing which will be out in September. Both books are a total dream, and I’m nervously excited to see them out in the world. As I was preparing to share the news, I was reflecting a little on my writing journey so far, and how it has all been a little unexpected and not always a smooth road.

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but when I first committed to writing seriously about seven years ago, I don’t think I imagined this was exactly where I’d be now. Taking for example Dark Crescent – this was the result of a slightly bumpy path towards publication, and it probably wouldn’t have existed without a fair amount of rejection first.

During 2020, I began working on a YA eco fantasy novel, A Seafarer’s Map to Mountains, with support from the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award programme, and with mentorship from Julie Bertagna (brilliant author of the Exodus series).

The novel was a really personal project – a coming-of-age tale of climate change and magic, inspired by Scottish folklore, the landscape, and my own experiences of growing up in remote Scotland. I learned so much from Julie during the invaluable mentoring process – she was supportive, insightful, and thoughtful with her feedback and advice. By the end of 2020, I finished the novel, was working with an agent, and in 2021 the book went out on submission to publishers. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, though I do hope to come back to it one day.

(Photo of Glen Coe by Rene Pot on Unsplash)

The tangents of a writer’s life

But it wasn’t the end of the story as during the process of writing and working on that novel, it led to a few other things that changed my writing trajectory. First, while drafting, Julie suggested exploring one of the character’s back stories in more depth, to understand her motivations and her origins. This led to me writing my first audio drama script, which I then pitched to a podcast I’d been following because of their interest in folklore, Alternative Stories & Fake Realities. I was delighted that they loved the idea, and I wrote the two-part audio drama, Daughter of Fire and Water, while working closely with Chris Gregory from the podcast. The resulting drama remains one of the writing achievements I’m most proud of – I loved working in the script format, and it was amazing to hear the story come to life with the brilliant voice actors, music, and production (all done remotely during lockdown). It felt magical, and even more so when it was a finalist for a British Fantasy Award for Best Audio, which was so beyond what I would have expected. This gave me a much-needed boost of confidence amidst submission woes, and also made me want to write more stories inspired by folklore and my Scottish roots.

With my reignited love for folklore, I also took a number of excellent online classes and workshops to delve into the creative process around folklore and the occult more – from authors Sandra Ireland, Claire Askew and Alice Tarbuck, and with Cunning Folk Magazine. I familiarised myself again with the folklore tales from my childhood and learned about new ones. It quickly became a bit of an obsession – the dark and strange creatures from Scottish folklore, omens, hauntings, superstitions, and stories based around the Scottish landscape. What’s not to love? I began to write more short stories inspired by folklore, and with the audio drama out in the world, I found the confidence to start submitting them. 

Through the process, I found myself thinking more deeply about my connections to Scotland, the places I’d grown up, the landscapes and nature all around me. A lot of the stories I wrote connected with one another because of that, and I started to see some patterns between them. During 2021-22, some of the stories found fantastic publishing homes, giving me confidence that the stories were finding their audiences (in Scotland and beyond!). I ended up expanding the audio drama into a novella – as I still felt there were parts of the story that could be explored – then with that as the anchor, I started to think about what a full collection might look like.

(Photo of the Isle of Skye by Nils Leonhardt on Unsplash)

Bringing together a collection of stories

In 2022, I was lucky enough to be awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship, which involved a month living in a castle with other writers just outside of Edinburgh. It was a unique experience, and also an inspiring place – a whole month to focus only on writing was a luxury I’d never had before. I absorbed myself in folklore and mythology and started building the collection. During the process, I found seasonal trends (which then became the book sections) and identified where the story gaps were. I did more research, and wrote more, and finally, I had a first full draft. After polishing and edits, it was submitted and then picked up at the end of 2023 by Luna Press Publishing, which was a total dream come true. And, in true publishing style – after months of seeing another novel not quite make it on submission, and feeling like maybe it was time to take a break from writing – I had an offer on another second collection of dark sci fi tales that same week, from the brilliant Shortwave Publishing, who also published my short debut novelette, Have You Decided on Your Question, in 2023. After a tough few years of rejections, things felt like they were starting to come together in an exciting way.

While rejection is of course hard and heartbreaking at times, I am so grateful that during the years of ups and downs, I was able to discover my love for both reading and writing more short fiction. It has brought so much to my passion for writing – allowing me to experiment and explore different genres, helping to refine my voice and style, and overall improving my storytelling and writing craft. And importantly, it has made me more resilient in the face of writing life ups and downs. It’s also helped to connect me to so many great writers, online and in local groups, and it’s really such a generous and supportive community to be a part of. I love reading new work from writer friends, sharing ToCs with authors I admire, and generally shouting about all the exciting new stories being published in great magazines and anthologies every week. The short fiction scene for sci fi, fantasy and horror writing (particularly with indie publishers leading the way) is vibrant, innovative and exciting, and I’m delighted I get to be a small part of it.

So, what’s next? With my collections coming out, I have now taken a slight pause writing short fiction, as I’m back to novel writing again (and hoping it might be fourth time lucky for this one!) Either way, I know I won’t stop writing for the foreseeable, and I’m excited to see where the next few years lead. And if there’s one main takeaway from this blog, it’s maybe that sometimes, rejection doesn’t always mean the end of the writing journey. Sometimes, the journey just evolves, and it can lead to something else entirely. And to borrow the words of the master of an unexpected journey – the (writing) road goes ever on and on!

Just a few of the places you’ll find Lyndsey’s writing

More Info about the Collections

LIMELIGHT, September 3rd 2024, Shortwave Publishing: Limelight is a collection of over twenty high-concept dark science fiction tales from near and far futures. The title novelette—about a young woman brought back from near death by experimental tech, only to find her parents had her altered before she woke—anchors this collection which features five new exclusive stories alongside past works published in magazines including Apex, Analog, and Shoreline of Infinity. You can pre-order Limelight directly from Shortwave here (all orders made during April will receive a free download of Have You Decided on Your Question e-book), though more pre-order options will be coming soon. 

DARK CRESCENT, June 2025, Luna Press: An omen of spirits dance across the sky. A lonely woman befriends a sea witch as the world ends. The last whale in the world travels north in search of hope. A grandmother seeks revenge on the sea monster that took her family. DARK CRESCENT is a collection of seasonal tales inspired by Scottish folklore, landscape, superstitions, and omens. In this book, readers will find reinterpretations of common folklore creatures and phenomenon, like the Kelpie, Selkie, and Will-o’-the-Wisps, as well as lesser known, such as the Sea Mither, Ceasg, Marool, Sluagh, Ghillie Dhu, Nuckelavee, Baobhan Sith, and The Frittening, all with dark and strange lore around them. Moving through the seasons, from a darker Autumn and Winter to a more optimistic Summer, the often-interconnected stories cover a wide range of genres, including gothic, weird horror, speculative, dark fantasy, and solarpunk. Many of the tales are also inspired by nature, climate, and the environment, with feminist and eco themes throughout. Find out more via Luna Press here.


Meet the author

Lyndsey is an Edinburgh-based author of strange and speculative fiction, with work published in over eighty magazines and anthologies, including Apex Magazine, Shoreline of Infinity, Analog, and Weird Tales. She’s a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardee, British Fantasy Award Finalist, and former Hawthornden Fellow.

Her novelette Have You Decided on Your Question (2023) and debut short story collection Limelight (2024) are published with Shortwave Publishing. Her second collection of Scottish folklore-inspired tales will be published in 2025 by Luna Press Publishing. She’s currently working on a number of longer works in the sci fi and horror space. Find out more about her and her work via www.lyndseycroal.co.uk

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One response to “Trusting the Unexpected Journey”

  1. Stephen Frame avatar

    There are some fine insights in this piece that I’m sure many writers could identify with. The stops and starts in writing, the pauses for breath, the reversals of rejection and how it sometimes brings you back stronger.

    That picture of Lyndsey’s bookshelf. I was looking at “Daughter of Sarpedon” and thinking, “That’s awful familiar.” It took a second for the penny to drop. “Oh, right, I’ve got a story in that one as well.” Small world (though as Steven Wright said, I wouldn’t want to have to paint it).