On one hand I feel like this year has gone on forever but on the other I’m still quietly convinced that I’m dreaming and I’ll wake up to find it’s still only May. On balance I’d prefer the former because I have absolutely no wish to relive June to December in real time again.
Even if I ignore the catastrophic political events that have occurred on both sides of the Atlantic this year and simply focus on what’s been happening in my life, it could easily be said that it’s not been a brilliant one. I marginally failed both of my exams, had a significant period of ill health (as did other family members) and found myself in quite a dark place, wondering if everything I was doing with my life was destined to fail. I considered several radical changes, talked myself down from quite a few metaphorical ledges despite everything and at one point wondered if I’d ever feel properly well again. Plus various bits and pieces in the house leaked/broke/required replacing at the most inconvenient moments (as if there is ever a good time to have water pouring through your ceiling).
Thankfully that isn’t the whole story of my year. I am lucky enough to have a GP who persevered with finding the right medications to get rid of the headaches and other feelings of malaise, family who are unendingly caring and are willing to listen to me vent until I work out what it is I’m actually trying to say, and an incredibly supportive boss (and colleagues) who had my back whilst I got on with making myself well again. Together with my friends, who offered respite and bright spots whenever I needed them, this turned my year around (not forgetting the local tradespeople who put my house and garden back together again).
I’m not saying that this year has been easy – far from it – but I’ve certainly come out of it with more positivity and focus than I had any right to expect and I’m so grateful to everyone who propped me up until I had the energy to keep going on my own. Not only did my retreat back in May involve some serious soul searching that reopened old wounds (which needed opening because there was a festering mess beneath them that was poisoning me from the inside) I was forced by the circumstances I found myself in to really take stock of the day-to-day grind and reassess what I was trying to do, where I was headed, and what I thought the point of it all was.
I’m still not certain about the answer to what the point of everything is (although I’m sure 42 has something to do with it) but I have a better idea than I did and I’m happy with the commitments I’ve made for the next few years. I have goals, I have both plans to allow me to achieve them, and plans for what I do when I’ve got there. It’s a good feeling and one I’m going to cling on to when the next wave of life rocks my personal boat!
As for other noteworthy things that happened this year …
I’m now officially a published author, with a short story in “A Murmuring of Bees” (a Sherlock Holmes anthology that you can find out more about here, including how to buy it) and I have been approached to contribute to an academic anthology looking at women in fantasy which will be published next year (hopefully with my essay included if it makes the cut). These are both such significant milestone for me and not just in terms of being able to tick one of the biggest things off my bucket list. They’re a huge boost of confidence around my abilities as a writer of things other people want to read.
Speaking of writing, this year I have written 256,016 words, almost half of which are for my Arthurian fantasy series which now comprises a 5 book original legend retelling and 3 book modern day “Return of Arthur”. I had no idea how complicated getting magic into this world would be (given that I want to set the modern series in this world, not simply a world that looks and sounds quite like this one but with magic in it) but I think I’m 90% there!. The rest of the words are a mixture of blog posts, reviews (of plays, films and books) and personal journaling (which would be more accurately call free-writing and is where all my short stories and poems are first conceived). The majority of these words have not been seen by anyone other than me but this is part and parcel of how I write. I think, although this is very much a guestimate rather than a scientific calculation, that for every thousand words I share, there are another six to ten thousand which do not make the cut. This is especially true of my novelling process, where world-building, character backstory and the first draft together would easily fill ten novels. I have a sneaking suspicion that if it weren’t for the fact that do eventually just NEED to get the story on paper I could simply research and create worlds and characters and snippets of scenes and be perfectly happy.
This year has seen the return of my reading mojo in full force and so my head has been filled with at least 125 books worth of interesting stuff (I say at least because 125 is the total on my Goodreads account but I know I’ve forgotten to log some books on there and I haven’t got time to check back and see how many are missing). It’s been a rather eclectic mix too, ranging from modern retellings of Jesus’ life, through the lives of various Celtic Saints and a veritable smorgasbord of fantasy, crime and historical fiction, to a rather pleasing mix of non-fiction and nature-based books.
My favourite non-fiction book this year is Feral by George Monbiot (with Cheer Up Love by Susan Calman coming a close second). Feral is challenging, frightening, and fascinating by turns and made me look at the world in a different way – a slightly longer review is here, if you’re interested. In terms of fiction my ability to choose is completely failing me, so I’m going with a three way tie: Uprooted by Naomi Novak, Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell and Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. These all made my heart sing in different ways and I finished each of them at one sitting (because I have zero restraint when I adore a book).
Theatre-wise I’ve not been nearly as active as I have in previous years but I did make it to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, No Man’s Land and Romeo & Juliet, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I may not have been as active in the various societies and groups I belong to but I’ve kept in touch with them all and have at least read the various magazines and emails that appear to remind me of the things I love the best in life. Next year will be similarly limited (in terms of both time and money) but I’ve already committed to going to the Tolkien Society AGM in April and I will do my best to get to one of the Sherlock Society Events (but not the Dinner or Morning After in January) if they fall at the right time. In terms of the BBC Sherlock fandom, I’m already committed to helping ArianeDeVere create the transcripts of the episodes and I also promise to create a Series 4 timeline in the same way that I did for Series 3. Whether there is any more fic depends entirely on what actually happens in the new episodes, so all we can do is wait and see. Regardless, between that and my Women in Fantasy essay and the work I’m actually paid to do I shall have a very busy January!
And last, but never least, Dog has once again been my constant companion and brought light into the darkest of places with her “you’re home, hurrah!” sneezes, cold nose kisses, soft fluffy ears and huge heart. Since Madam is still too full of Christmas treats to do anything more taxing than snooze by the fire, there is no DOINGS OF DOG for me to transcribe. However she and I feel that a selection of photos, at least one from each month, should do very nicely instead:
I know that for many of you 2016 has been a year you’d rather forget – for a myriad of reasons – so from the bottom of our hearts, both Dog and I wish you all a truly wonderful 2017.