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.

Rounded up to four

For someone who has recently given up on having websites, I do seem to accumulating them at a tremendous rate. Not so long ago I was basically done with being on the Internet, burnt out by the Demon Pigeon thing and not really wanting to write anything other than the novel. I was in a new job and that was stressing me out, but more importantly I was feeling pretty down about my own writing. I needed a break. I was also sick of paying hosting fees, url renewal charges and everything else. So I closed Demon Pigeon, closed the old self hosted version of this blog and genuinely thought that was me done with the internet. Except I couldn’t just consign all that hard work to the dust. I’d been blogging for over a decade, over which my life had changed dramatically. I’d gone through numerous career changes, started a family and stopped the crazy party lifestyle completely, and the blog was in some ways a document of that time. I had to back it up somewhere, just as an archive. Demon Pigeon too wasn’t just my thing, it had the work of nearly a dozen other writers, and a lot of stuff that I was personally pretty proud of. So I had to back that up too.

I knew I had a Wordpress account kicking about, and since I’d always used Wordpress as a base for both blogs, it made sense to just copy them both over to that. So I did that, closed the other ones down and hey presto, I was done with the internet. Farewell to all that.

Except then I had an idea to start a Spotify playlist exchange site. A few others seemed to like it, so I set up a third website, Tapetraders. Messing around with that a bit I found myself coming back to this site, and then suddenly I was blogging again. Tapetraders hasn’t really had the necessary input put into it so it’s kind of gone quiet over there, but it’s a good idea and I keep meaning to go back to it. But blogging again seems to have really taken root, for some reason. I’ve not got a lot to say but I like to say it. The justification I use is that it keeps my other writing, the proper stuff, sharp. I guess that’s true, but there’s more to it than that. I just like blogging. I’m a blogger.

Which is probably how I’ve ended up with another website. One of the long running things I was doing at Demon Pigeon was a faintly ludicrous challenge to try and listen to every album on Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 albums of all-time list. Actually, that fudges the genesis of the whole thing a bit. It started here on Blog on the Motorway as a bit of fun, but my co-editor at Demon Pigeon suggested I should move it over, so I did. With his help we turned it into a more focused project, and it ended up being pretty much the most popular thing I did for the site (not a hard accolade to achieve).

I only made it as far as 300 on the list (working backwards from 500) by the time we closed it, and I was gutted that I hadn’t finished it. It was a fun project to do, opened my ears to a hell of a lot of music I’d never listened to, and writing about the dreadful ones was fun enough to make having to listen to them worthwhile.

After a few months of letting the dust settle on Demon Pigeon, I thought about trying to make my way through the remainder of the list, and found myself idly setting up my fourth free wordpress blog. If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself ‘for pity’s sake have I just read all of that just for him to pimp out his new blog’ then, well, yes, you have. The first new entry in the Rolling Stone 500 challenge went live on Friday.

So much for quitting blogging though, eh?