Over my shoulder

My brief abscondment from blogging last year has rather unfortunately robbed me of the traditional look-back-on-the-year-gone post of which I have previously been so fond of boring my audience with. I’d look at the post I did last year for the year ahead, judge myself against it and write one for the next year, so I could end up in an endless feedback loop of recrimination. If blogging offers anything of value to the blogger beyond the knowledge of pestering multiple people at once, it is the accountability you can get by looking back and measuring yourself against that optimistic version of yourself. Last year I’d completely abandoned blogging and was about to walk away from writing online altogether, and so there is no post from this time last year going on about how much I was going to achieve this year for me to look at, get depressed and then write about how next year was going to be the year I’d actually get my life together.

Not that that’s going to stop me looking back anyway.

I seem to remember that at the turn of last year I actually took a conscious decision not to make any resolutions at all. I was determined not to mess about with dieting and all that nonsense (hence the additional stone or so that I’m now carrying), I was going to wrap up Demon Pigeon and make most of the people I know online cross with me for doing so (mission accomplished) and there was some kind of nebulous ‘I’ll do better with the writing thing’. That was about it.

So in the absence of any set goals, what kind of a year has it been? Well I started a new job and managed not to get fired from it, so that’s a good start. I seem to actually be quite good at it, so from that point of view it’s been pretty good. It has brought into my life a level of ‘work stress’ that I’ve managed to avoid for most of my work life to date, but I guess that’s what happens as you climb further up that greasy pole. It’s not unbearable and I’m a hell of a lot better off than a lot of other people, so I’m not about to start bitching about it.

On the health front the aforementioned stone or so (I daren’t look too closely at the numbers until next year, when I will actually do something about it) is testament to a year when I have at the very least enjoyed my food. And my wine. Mostly the latter.

As for the writing? Well I finished the second draft of Blood on the Motorway, my apocalyptic tale of murder and stale sandwiches, but more importantly I came to something approaching an epiphany about my writing, and what I need to do if I’m serious about wanting to make this anything more than a hobby. I sent the second draft out (or bits of it anyway) to some beta readers and seemed to get some fairly positive responses which have encouraged me that perhaps I’m not entirely barking up the wrong tree.

As for everything else, well it’s been a bit of a barnstormer of a year. My lovely family is pretty bloody brilliant. My little boy is currently at the period between three and four that guarantees peak cuteness and my daughter is growing up to be a brilliant, kind and sweet little girl with a tremendous curiosity about the world. My partner and I are nearly a year into planning a wedding and haven’t had to resort to murdering each other even once. She’s been amazingly supportive as I’ve taken on the new job and tried to determine my writing plan, and I can’t wait to stand up next to her next year and look slightly shambolic next to her radiance when we get married.

There’s been ups and downs, as there inevitably is, but as I sit astride December looking back on the year gone, I have to say that on balance it’s been a corker. I’m unbelievably excited about next year, even though it’s going to be one of the toughest of my life if I want to do everything I plan to achieve, but that’s for another post. Stop rolling your eyes, yes there’ll be more of this.

At this point all there is to do is splurge out a list of all the stuff I’ve liked this year, like a child shouting out his favourite Pokémon to a disinterested playground.

Books

I almost never read stuff when it comes out, but the books I’ve enjoyed most this year are:

  • Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant, and Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. Two self-publishing guides that have completely revolutionised my thinking this year.
  • Old Gold, Runaway Town and Lost City by Jay Stringer. After a few years of meaning to get around to them I finally read these three books in quick succession, and they completely blew me away. All the brilliance of the American crime heavyweights like Pelicanos, but with a Wolverhampton accent.
  • I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. A bit of a fluff read, this was a thoroughly entertaining Bourne style political murder mystery.

Movies

I have children so rarely make it to the cinema any more, but The Raid: Berendal was astounding, and I really enjoyed Captain America: Winter Soldier and Edge of Tomorrow. I’m sure I would have loved Gone Girl, Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy too, but I haven’t seen any of them so I can’t comment. No, I’m not crying, you’re crying. *weeps*

Music

Despite there not being any albums that completely blew me away this year, there’s been a lot that I’ve really enjoyed. Here’s my non ordered top 21 albums of the year because why the hell not:

  • Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown
  • 65daysofstatic – Wild Light
  • Crippled Black Phoenix – White Light Generator
  • Mogwai – RAVE TAPES
  • Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
  • Conan – Blood Eagle
  • Dirge – Hyperion
  • Cult Leader – Nothing For Us Here
  • Lantlos – Melting Sun
  • Fu Manchu – Gigantoid
  • Electric Wizard – Time to Die
  • Trap Them – Blissfucker
  • Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God I
  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  • Se Delan – The Fall
  • Goat – Commune
  • This Will Destroy You – Another Language
  • Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean
  • Mark Lanegan Band – Phantom Radio
  • NehruvianDOOM – NehruvianDOOM

Of course, the new Colour Haze album comes out today and I’ve not heard it yet, so I fully expect that to make a late bid for Album of the Year.

So that’s it. 2014. All done and dusted save for the fun bit at the end. If you missed it the other day, I did a new post over at The Rolling Stone Challenge, so if you’ve not seen that, you should totally go and read it.

Killed

This week has utterly killed me; a combination of a desperately unwanted deathly illness from the kids and a week of ridiculous stress at the job thing. Oh, and one of the kids being bloody inconsiderate in his own illness and waking me up every night. All of which has somewhat robbed me of the enthusiasm I’ve had for the last few weeks, where I have been bounding towards my inevitable career as a multimillion selling author with all the joys of Autumn. I’m just hoping that it’s all getting out of my system ahead of NaNoWriMo. I did manage to attend a writing group though, which was lovely as usual. It’s such a joy to sit around with fellow writers and chat writing, even if it’s only to be in a room with people who don’t roll their eyes when you start talking about the world you’re creating.

Writers love talking to other writers, we fire off each other. This is why I really love the infrequent catch ups with my writing group, the lengthy discussions on my online writing group and listening to writing podcasts like The Creative Penn and the Self-Publishing Podcast. It’s also why at the moment, this blog is pretty much me writing about writing. It helps me to stay focused, stay motivated, but most importantly it helps me order things in my head, work through my thoughts on how to approach things.

I’m not sure how helpful it is to anyone else (my guess is not a lot), but until I start to really try to build my ‘brand’ for readers, I guess it’s what I’m going to be doing. All the literature I’ve read says that the worst way to market yourself as an writer is to talk to other writers, but this blog has existed for over a decade now in one form or another as a way of getting my thoughts out without any grand scheme or over-arching theme, and what I’m largely thinking about right now is writing.

I’m no authority, I’m an unpublished wannabe, and if you are following this blog trying to gain knowledge on how to become a millionaire author, then sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. But perhaps what I can give an insight to is the process of trying to write, of trying to follow my dreams. You’ll be able to follow along as I creep closer and closer to the realisation in my fifties that I’ve wasted my life chasing unicorns. I jest.

Hopefully.

There are three books on Self-Publishing that I’ve had on my Amazon wish list for a while now, cued to sit there eternally while I wait for that mythical day when I might have enough money to actually procure them. The books are Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran, How To Market a Book by Joanna Penn and Write, Publish, Repeat by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt with David Wright (the Self-Publishing Podcast guys). All of them are considered experts in the field of self-publishing, all of them having worked in this area for years, getting increasingly successful through sheer hard work (and a fair bit of talent, of course.) I figured that between the three books it’d cover pretty much everything I’d need to know about the market I’m getting into.

Imagine my delight, then, to find a post on Joanna’s blog this morning that the authors have teamed up to bundle all three books together, and at the ridiculous price of 79p for all three books. I may have actually done a merry little dance. So if that’s your kind of thing, head here to find out more about it.