Monday, 1 January 2018

2017: Achievement Unlocked

It occurred to me when I started planning this year-just-gone's concluding post that there's a bias inherent in the system: I always write these things at Christmas and Christmas is my least favourite time of year.  I mean, not Christmas itself, exactly, but the dark depths of winter are perhaps not the best vantage point from which to try and objectively summarize twelve months of one's life.  And usually when I look back a few months later, I'm surprised by how pessimistic I've been.

Which is to say, it feels like 2017 was a but rubbish right at this minute; but it's probably safe to assume that a large part of that is the dark and the cold and the fact that I've done next to nothing except line editing for what feels like a decade and is easily five whole months.  Argh, I'm so sick of editing!  And seriously, I'm never going to blunder into a situation where I have to deliver two manuscripts in immediate succession again, because doing so is an incredible, soul-sucking nightmare.  I swear, I've spent maybe two months of 2017 in the business of actually making up stories, and it hasn't been anywhere like enough.  Creatively speaking, I've had my ass kicked.  And that's not even to mention the unusually dreadful year I've had on the short fiction front, with a grand total of one new story sold in the entire twelve month period, a fact made all the worse by the weirdly disproportionate number of editors who just never bothered to get back to me or lost my story down the back of the sofa or whatever.

So, yeah, some stuff sucked.  But a lot didn't.  For a start, I got to try a couple of intriguing new sidelines: somehow I began a tangential career as an interviewer, and got to talk to Joanne Harris and Adrian Tchaikovsky in front of live audiences, both of which were amazing experiences; and thanks to Michael Wills and Digital Fiction Publishing, I got my teeth into slush-reading, which led me to some stunning authors I'd never have encountered otherwise and gave me the chance to help more people get to read their work.  Most importantly, for me at least, The Black River Chronicles are out there in a major way and finding readers: Level One is already proving popular, and with The Ursvaal Exchange released as of late November, we now have a fledgling series for readers to get their teeth into.  It's a book that I'm really excited for, the first I've had out that I felt went mostly right from the beginning and ended up being more or less exactly what I'd intended, and I'm eager to see what people make of it.  Especially since I'm really close to beginning the third book, which is another step up in ambition and another broadening of the world that Mike and I have concocted.  I love this series, and that there are increasingly other people out there who love it is reassuring to know.

And actually, on a personal level, 2017 has been a mostly solid year, too.  There were some crappy moments, sure - I could happily never end up in A&E with an eye infection again ever - and maybe a bit more work than I could reasonably cope with.  But I finally feel like I'm settled back in the north after my years of IT contracting in the wilderness, and that I have stuff going on here, whether it's pub-crawling around Sheffield with that Ian Sales bloke or board-gaming or my D&D campaign (and yay for my D&D campaign, the most fun that I could possibly have while pretending I'm researching for The Black River Chronicles!)  In fact, my birthday celebration, which somehow managed to drag together people from all across the spectrum of my life, was perhaps the nicest birthday I've had - and huge thanks to everyone who made it, your presence meant a lot.

Here's the really exciting thing, though, and the thing that definitively tips 2017 from an okay to a basically good year: this was the first year since I walked away from my regular job that I didn't have to dip into my savings even slightly.  While I didn't exactly manage to live off my writing income, I came considerably closer than on any previous occasion.  I have no idea if this is sustainable, let alone if a level of success where I get to write full time and not be majorly hard up is ever going to be on the cards, but I've already done a little better than I seriously expected to when I walked the plank out of my safe, well-paid IT career.

Oh, and a big part of the reason why is that I've sold another novel, which is due out next year.  I knew there was something else!  But that's kind of a secret right now, so I can't tell you which book it is or who the publisher is or anything at all useful.  The proper announcement should be along sooner rather than later, and it's probably enough to say that this is something wholly, wildly different from anything I've had out before, and that the publisher is one I'm thrilled to be working with, having seen the sort of extraordinary work they've released in the past.

So that was 2017.  I had a new novel out and sold a couple more, both of which are due for 2018.  I managed to keep my head above water; I get to keep doing the job that I (mostly!) love for another twelve months, at the very least.  And whether I end up looking back at this past year as a turning point or a lucky fluke, I feel as though I've proved to myself that the decision I made four and a bit years ago wasn't wholly idiotic, and that alone is enough to make 2017 a win.

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