Cheers from Thailand, a very fine place to say bye-bye to one year, and hello to the next. Over the last week, I’ve been looking forward and looking back. I’m not the only one to do so – as the year ends, it’s common to find people reflecting on how the previous year treated them, and look to what might be ahead in the months to come. It’s all very arbitrary of course – there’s no line in the sand at the end of the year, not really. Human beings like to categorise though, to close things off and reinvent, and the holidays at year end are as good a time to do so as any.
That’s particularly true for those of us following self-driven paths. A career as a writer, whether full time or not, is like a marathon that never ends. One foot in front of the other, for as long as you can keep it up. When I run long distance I break the course into manageable chunks, little milestones along the way that I can focus on achieving while the big distance still feels impossible. A writing career is like that (so is a life, when you think about it), and each twelve month period is its own little milestone. If you’ve been by in the last week, you’ll know that 2012 was an important year for me, both personally and as a writer. It’s ended up being all about reinvention on both fronts. Going forward then, 2013 is a time to capitalise on that. I want it to be a big year, and I do hope it agrees to play along.
My personal goals are pretty simple. Stay sober, get fit, and enjoy my family more. The groundwork on staying sober is, as I’ve already written about, already done. The rest is easy on paper, but challenging in practise. I’m reasonably confident, if a little wary. I have bad days when I desperately want to drink (actually it’s not that I want to drink per se, it’s that I sometimes crave absolute obliteration), but they’re few and far between.
Groundwork on getting fit is underway as well. I’ve been running around quite a lot in 2012, completed a half marathon, and a week or so after my birthday in January will do my first marathon. As you can imagine, I’m fitter than I’ve been in a long time. I want to push that further though, and see what I can achieve. I enjoy the benefits enormously, and the journey to win them even more.
Enjoying my family more? Well, that’s self-explanatory. The last twelve months have sometimes boxed me in a personal world of things to overcome, and it hasn’t often been easy to share the things that make them happy. With so much in 2013 that I want to do, I want to make sure they come along for the ride, and that I’m a bigger part of their own milestone year.
That’s the personal stuff then. There will be details that sort themselves out, some travel, and unplanned disasters and triumphs along the way. No point worrying about any of that until it happens.
The writing? God, I’ve got so much planned. I’ve already sat down with a year planner and blocked out chunks of time. If I can make myself stick to what I’ve written down, one step at a time, I’ll end up amazing myself. It’s going to be a workhorse of a year, and extremely tiring, but on paper it looks achievable (but realistically? It looks punishing too). In 2013, I want to clear out the ideas in my head – the novels I’ve wanted to write for years, the short stories I’ve failed to find time for, the novellas I’ve long promised myself. I’m under no illusions about how high I’ve set the bar, but having dealt with a lot of crap in 2012 I feel like I have a clean slate, and want to make the best use of it.
That’s behind the curtain though, making words you might not see until 2014 or beyond. It may even be the case that none of those words will be ones you ever get to see – hard work doesn’t always yield publishable results.
On the publishing front, which is the stuff I know you’ll get to read this year, I’m going into 2013 reasonably sure you’ll see at least three short stories starting with a tale called ‘Skins’ (about innocence and selkies) early in the year, in an anthology called Nightscapes. There should then be at least one yarn in a magazine, and a further one in an anthology from one of my favourite UK publishers. I’ve also got my fingers crossed that an overdue novella will finally see print from the same house (a fumbled project that should have seen print in 2012 had I not dropped the ball).
I’ll also being continuing my exploration of independent publishing, releasing a novel called Craven Place in the summer. It’s very different in tone from either Cuckoo or Thy Fearful Symmetry (which are themselves quite different from one another) – a haunted house mystery set in the Welsh countryside, packed with larger than life characters. Like TFS before it, Craven Place has also had a number of false starts. It began life as a movie that never made it through post-production for budgetary reasons, and was (and technically still is) being released a chapter at a time in Shroud Publishing’s free digital edition. Alas, that digital edition comes around so infrequently that I can’t recommend you try to follow the novel there (you’ll forget what’s happening between chapters – DO check the edition out though, it’s full of great fiction, and free). Craven Place is unfinished business for me, as were TFS and Cuckoo, and it’s past time the novel got a chance to prove its mettle.
This year I learned a lot about how to be more efficient when publishing my own work – the things I need to do and the things I don’t – so I look forward to putting them to practise. Thy Fearful Symmetry has grabbed the attention of the US in a big way. It sold (and still sells) very well there, and has introduced me to hundreds of new readers, but for reasons I’m struggling to work out it hasn’t done much business at all in the UK. Craven Place feels to me more fundamentally British in tone and in the archetypes it plays with – a haunted house in remote countryside, a larger than life cast that would not be out of place in a Hammer horror, a detective of sorts, a locked room murder mystery… while it isn’t consciously designed to appeal to the UK, it has the hallmarks of something that might. We’ll find out this summer, I suppose. I hope readers on both sides of the Atlantic will enjoy it, of course, but it would be nice if the book caught the eye of my home country.
So, all that to come. You’ll be glad to hear this pretty munch rounds off my end of year introspection, and we’ll be back to business as usual soon enough. On New Year’s Eve I’ll post my reading list from this year, those books that weren’t in my top five reads (but which were often excellent. As with previous years, it’s a big list, and only the most masochistic should try to go through it. I will be posting it on New Year’s Eve for just that reason. Who’s reading blogs on the party night of the year anyway?
Currently reading (novel): The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
Currently reading (non-fiction): Richard III and the Murder In the Tower, Peter A. Hancock
Currently reading (short stories): Medi Evil 1, Paul Finch