Well. So much for getting back to blogging regularly.
For real, the title of this post was originally going to be An Autumnal Update. But then, as time slunk by and the year turned, I begrudgingly retitled it to A Winter Update.
But still, it isn’t quite 2022 yet, and I suppose that is something. As someone who takes a perverse narcissistic pride in watching this website’s Archive tab grow month by month, missing multiple chances at continuing that streak really ought to have bothered me a touch. But then, just as (I suspect) is the case with so many of us this winter, I’ve been feeling a little disconnected with the state of the world as we gradually approach 2022.
The situation with Covid both has and hasn’t improved – thanks to the miracle of vaccines we are in such a better place than we were 12 months ago (a trend, hopefully, set to continue) but with this resurgence of new cases, and the fresh hell of not one but two new variants coming home to roost, entering yet another Covid-heavy winter is starting to feel like something out of Dante’s Inferno. I realise, of course, that as the variants evolve to become less and less lethal, that this is probably likely to be the last ‘bad’ winter we have… but then, people were saying that last December. And round the wheel we go.
Having only barely got used to the prospect of a more normal 2021, one where I could get out a bit more, and – dear god! – actually spend some time in the flesh with people I want to see, it does feel a little bit crushing to have come so far, yet so not far.
I could also say the same for the current situation with my health. Once again, my chronic pain – the other major force governing my life during these last two years, as well as Covid – both has and hasn’t improved over the course of 2021. Generally, I can handle myself a good deal better; I could ‘break through’ the pain and get about quite a bit in the height of summer… and compared with my physical state in July 2020, when simply moving around my bedroom would push me to the brink of suicidal agony, that is progress.
But as anyone with a pain condition will tell you, it isn’t enough to have it blunted. If you want to lead a normal life, you need to have it gone. There’s no reason to believe things won’t continue to improve for me over 2022 – albeit at the same glacial pace they have been already – but that is the thought that vexes me. I turned 25 this year, officially leaving my ‘early 20s’, and frankly, I don’t particularly like wondering how much of my life both this and Covid have yet to take from me.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m really, really not a festive soul, and These Unprecedented Times™ haven’t done a great deal to change that. Consequently I’m never particularly happy at the year’s cusp, a time traditionally meant for taking stock of where you’re at and where you’re going. Like so many of us in a pandemic, neither is breathtakingly reassuring right now.
This year I managed to publish a novel (well, self-publish), something I’d wanted for god knows how long and something a small part of me doubted would ever really happen. It was a labour of love, but it was also without doubt an intense ball-ache, and while I am very keen for the Ironbreakers series to continue (to say nothing of my other irons in the literary imaginative fire), I’m not in a massive hurry to run that gauntlet a second time. I also learnt to do several other things in tandem, the most obvious being simply how to set up a (clearly, quite rudimentary) author website. Being the complete and utter luddite that I am, this is also something I would never have believed possible if you’d told me sooner.
I can’t say, objectively, that I’ve accomplished much else of note over the course of 2021, beyond scratching my car quite badly in Botley car park, and more recently clearing out a load of old clothes and tat from my bedroom cupboards. All in all, I’m bowing out of this year rather the same as how I entered it – with little real control or influence over what’s going on around me, but trying to just make the most of it nonetheless.
For now, though, I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you so much to everyone who bought a copy of Legion That Was, to anyone who was kind enough to leave a review or anyone who simply follows these inane ramblings online. The support and encouragement I’ve received is humbling, and I still can’t really believe this website has nearly 2400 hits now. I think I’ll have to do something to mark 2500. A giveaway, perhaps, or a preview of upcoming work.
And on that subject, a little word about the future.
I’ve started work on Book II of the Ironbreakers, which will almost certainly be titled Prince of Knaves. I have a broad idea of the plot, and for now it’s merely a balance of filling in the detailed outline and doing more research from my stack of reading material. Each inevitably fuels the other, and from both of those processes the plan will rise.
It may not necessarily be soon, though. Early next year I’m hoping to be getting back into the world of work a little more permanently – beyond the odd bit of freelance hijinks here and there I’ve done to keep afloat – and between my improving health and depleting bank account, I can’t justify leaving it much longer. It probably won’t be anything spectacularly demanding (and after the last months, I’m not deluded enough to hope I can do anything non-remote) but the knock-on effect of this is, for the immediate future at least, the bulk of my energy will probably be going into that, rather than jumping into another novel.
That isn’t an ironclad promise, however, and it doesn’t mean Prince is off the cards. It just means it may not be quite as soon as people hope, as I’m going to have less time and energy to devote to it. Legion took me 18 months of unbroken work, and that was when I wasn’t worrying about timings or money.
And then of course there’s Aquilifer. My first 5000 word story, that examines the immediate aftermath of Legion, will be released exclusively online sometime in the new year. It will only cost £0.99, and there’s nothing in there that will hamper your understanding of Prince if you miss it. It’s simply a mouthful to tide people over in the meantime.
So on that cautionary note, I will leave you…
… with a few little snaps before I go. A couple of months ago I was invited to a charity awards dinner at Blenheim Palace organised by Oxfordshire Youth, with a hardback copy of Legion being one of the prizes for the charity raffle. (I can confirm that one unlucky visitor did buy the copy, and it’s all for a good cause so…). In the runup to dinner we all got a nice look at the Christmas lights inside the Palace, and let me tell you, they were sublime.
And down below, we have the cover for Aquilifer, looking nice and shiny.
Happy New Year, peeps and creeps. I’m sure the ride will be over soon x