I suppose it’s something of a writerly tradition to have a Year’s End blog post, which usually necessitates that you have actually done something (or things) worth blogging about. And in fact 2017 has been a reasonably eventful year, all things considered.
I began the year with forest-green hair and the publication of a short story imminent – “Sun Dogs”, which was published in Shadows & Tall Trees 7, alongside such excellent stories as V.H. Leslie’s “Shell Baby”, Manish Melwani’s “The Water Kings” and M. Rickert’s “Everything Beautiful is Terrifying”.
Speaking of Shadows & Tall Trees – I only got one tattoo this year (boo!) but it was a good one. Courtesy of the excellent Marcus Ottner, a tattoo to commemorate both Richard Adams and my first ever published short story, “Red Rabbit”:
In March, I went to Prague (see top photograph), which was my only adventure this year, but a good one. Prague is beautiful – the kind of city you can walk around over and over and continually discover new things. Besides which, the food is excellent, and inexpensive, and what more can you ask for, honestly?
After many years of being a wrestling fan I finally got to see my first ever wrestling shows – WWE at the 02, and Ring of Honor/New Japan at York Hall in Bethnal Green. I’ve always been a little reticent in talking about my love for wrestling because a) I’m a grown adult and b) people tend to be dismissive of wrestling, as a rule (“you know it’s fake, don’t you?” they say smugly as they launch into another episode of Eastenders, or Game of Thrones, or whichever completely nonfictional form of entertainment they’re into.) And it was great fun. Two very different shows, not least because of the sheer difference in scale (York Hall is a little bit smaller than the 02). I definitely want to see more shows in 2018, budget allowing. (And unlike gigs, my sad arthritic knees get a rest because you’re seated for the show – I’m getting old.)
In July my debut novella ‘Naming the Bones’ was launched at Edge-Lit alongside fellow Dark Minds alumni Mark West’s collection. I blogged about it earlier in the year, but it still blows my mind a little to think that there’s a book, which I wrote, that is (theoretically) sitting on people’s shelves. I will forever be grateful to the people at Dark Minds Press for giving me this opportunity – and with any luck, it won’t be the last time I have an actual, honest-to-god book out there, in the wild (next stop: Waterstones. Reach for the stars, innit?)
There was also Fantasycon, this year in Peterborough, which I have also blogged previously about (and which remains the source of some of my absolute favourite memories of the year.) I’m very much looking forward to Fantasycon 2018, where I suspect I will have to up my hair game significantly.
I had two more short stories published this year (“In The Marrow”, in the anthology Impostor Syndrome, and “Looking for Laika” in Interzone) bringing the total to three short stories and one novella. I’m aiming to exceed this total next year, which means I need to get my arse into gear and get writing. Not the easiest thing in the world when you’re also studying for a Master’s – my first essay is due in two weeks and I’m about a fifth of the way done with it. It’s a bit of a culture shock, writing essays when you’re so used to making shite up for the bulk of your writing output. Suddenly you have to use ‘citations’ and ‘references’ and you have to justify what you’re saying and ‘a monster did it’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Other things from the year: I learned to knit (sort of – I’m still rubbish). I started sewing sock dolls (mostly of Overwatch characters and Jim McLeod):
I started to learn how to garden, but need more practice and more motivation. Mr M and I booked a holiday to Japan for next year, which is in fact rapidly creeping up on me and I realise I have forgotten almost all of the Japanese I diligently learned for my first trip to Japan in 2013. So there’s yet another thing to add to my to-do list for 2018.
I read some wonderful stories this year. Chief among these would be three short stories: “Songs to Help You Cope When Your Mom Won’t Stop Haunting You and Your Friends” by Gwendolyn Kiste, which appeared in Black Static 58 and is surely a shoo-in for the BFA award for Best Short Story in 2018 (Last year I championed Georgina Bruce’s “White Rabbit” and I was right, so I have form here!) “Skyshine” by Carole Johnstone, also a Black Static story (#60) and, again, a dead cert for awards in 2018. And “Four Abstracts” by Nina Allan, which appeared in New Fears (and was the best of a truly excellent collection.)
There were many others, too. Aliya Whiteley amazed me with her strange and brilliant novella “The Beauty”. Tracy Fahey’s “The Girl In The Fort”, a wonderful coming-of-age story. “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking“, by Mark West struck such a chord with me that I chose to read it aloud at our joint book launch in July. “The Weight Of The Mantle” by Laura J. Moody, which is not your typical superhero tale and carries with it a very real emotional depth. I’m only partway through Malcolm Devlin’s collection “You Will Grow Into Them” but it’s already a standout (Devlin also wrote one of my very favourite stories – “Five Conversations With My Daughter (Who Travels In Time)” which, if you haven’t read it, you absolutely should.) I haven’t been able to read nearly as much in the latter half of 2017 as I would like to, thanks largely to university (and James Joyce’s Bloody Ulysses) but I have earmarked Kit Power’s new collection, and I wait in giddy anticipation of Priya Sharma’s collection forthcoming from Undertow Books, which is going to be something very special.
So that was 2017. 2018 is imminent. No doubt there are some brilliant stories I have forgotten to mention, some life events I have neglected to mention (or perhaps deliberately omitted). But, onwards, because time waits for no man, and it sure as hell isn’t going to wait for me, no matter how nicely and politely I ask it to.
Wishing all of you good health, happiness, and good reading. Happy New Year!