2018: Report

Was this year a year of fireworks or going round in circles?

What was 2018 like for me?

Sure, I know there are a few days left, but what’s really going to change?

In 2018, I wanted to:


Read 30 books.

Grade: A+ 

I did this, which was fairly remarkable given the year I had.

What was more rewarding was the type of books and the beauty of them. I’ll mention just a few, below:

For the non-religious, please bear with me. The New Testament (a work of fiction, or fantasy, cynics would say), was highly rewarding, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. The Gospels posed more questions than answers, which saddened me, but the remaining books more than made up for that. Reading it fresh, with a sense of detachment, it was clear to me that something happened all that time ago, something that was so powerful that it fundamentally changed the lives of a small but growing number of people. Those people knew the persecution, pain and intolerance that they would face, yet they followed a path they believed in. Listening to their words, it comes across as far more than delusion, or a great conspiracy, or simply the fiction of later generations. The words were beautiful, yet simple. The voices were compelling in their conviction, and provide a snapshot in time and a reflection on society, traditions, struggle and oppression. While, thankfully, times and attitudes have changed (I can’t believe everything or support some of the views), somehow, after all this time, many of the major themes still feel relevant in today’s world.

I read a series of other, ancient (granted not two thousand years old, but old enough), books too.

Image result for the prophet book

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran; beautiful in language and in many ways it read like an ancient scripture. Told from the viewpoint of a prophet returning home after a long absence, it covers topics important to most of us. There were some wonderful, poetic and heartwarming moments. It’s the sort of thing to dip in and out of over decades. Appreciating new lines and wisdom over a lifetime of reading. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup; heartbreaking and powerful. Yet it is inspiring and nothing short of incredible from start to finish. It is hard to understand that racial intolerance and bigotry is still a major issue for many today and if Solomon was alive today he would undoubtedly be impressed by many of the changes since his time, yet, I fear, he would also be deeply saddened.

Having been stunned by these books written well before I was born, I vow to read older books in 2019.

Old books… they’re the future.

FINISH AND RELEASE METROPOLITAN FEAR

Grade: B-

First draft finished. 115K word count.

First ‘global’ edits received. Book re-written.

I’m somewhere between 2nd and 3rd draft. Partially line edited. It’s over 151K at the moment.

My ranking should be lower, but I’m cutting myself some slack.

Because, this year I almost gave up.

Because, this year I kept going.

Because, this year work was more intense than I ever imagined.

I had a bad book review this year, but then again, I had handfuls of amazing reviews. You can’t please everyone, and I certainly wasn’t trying to. Part of the problem is that I wasn’t aiming for a genre book, with firm expectations of unicorns, dragons or vampires, so, I realise that this makes my writing harder to categorise and challenging to find an audience for. But, you know what? I don’t want to change. No point in writing what a thousand other people have written, right? No point in churning out a formula book, when you have something different to say.

This is the amazing cover that (the very talented) Tamara Rogers has designed. I’m so excited.  

Front and back covers for Metropolitan Fear.

Set in a divided NYC, the fragile peace is threatened by terrorism, political hostility and dark malevolent forces. The book is set in an urban environment we are familiar with yet richly coloured by a growing speculative fiction world.

Promotion of Writing

Grade: E

Poor. Barely tried. Must do better. See family and work report, below.

This year I did produce a new book, Prompt Stories, a collection of my short fiction. This was a joyous project and delving back into the worlds of my old writing life was like a mini adventure.

I greatly enjoyed my trip back in time.

Health

Grade: E

Pathetic. Weight poor. Exercise needs more work. Diet needs even more work. Need to be in a better place physically and mentally.
Qigong is incredible and I need to do more of it in 2019.

Must do better!

Image result for exercise man
Me, in 2019, with a different hair style, minus the tattoos, blue footwear and muscles, obviously.

VOLUNTEERING

Grade: B+

Took on some extra volunteering this year and continued the volunteering I already did.

Obviously, I could do more, but helping others has not been entirely selfless, it has made me feel more engaged with the world and a bit like I have helped in a very very small way.

Family Time and Travelling

Grade: A

While I could have spent more time with the kids, I did manage an incredible trip to Cape Verde to celebrate 20 years of marriage to my wife.

Such an incredible holiday. Perfection.

Me, taking a breath while being mesmerised by the brutal beauty of the Boa Vista desert.

SLEEP

Grade: C+

I’m still getting far less sleep than I need. However, things started to get better the last few months. So, I’ll give myself a break.

Family Stuff and work

Grade: A+

Not sure I can take much credit, but my wife did amazing things with study and exam results. I can’t describe how hard this was nor how much she worked for it. She nailed it. Totally nailed it. I did a lot of house stuff to support this, yet, the effort and achievement was all her own. So happy and proud of her.

My son got himself a professional job, key to his independence and it is something that has troubled us almost since the moment he was born. Things have not been easy for him. From breathing, to talking, to walking, to eating, to getting through school. Everything that a parent takes for granted was an Herculean struggle for him and for us. It is hard to fully explain this journey. He is amazing, truly amazing and I’m very proud of what he has achieved and what he’s capable of still achieving.

My daughter has worked hard at school and has wonderful results in terms of expected grades (we’re not expecting A*, btw) and her attitude and behaviours have been highly praised by all her teachers. She is a joy, a bright light, a ball of fun and energy that powers us and those around her. An incredible young woman who I love with all my heart.

Me? It’s been a stunning year at work too. A promotion. A seat at the top table at work. A work award shortlisting. A European award shortlisting and final. And, a whole heap of stuff I haven’t listed. A chance to start a PhD next year, not bad for someone that didn’t have the opportunity to go to university. Sometimes, it’s good to reflect. It’s been a crazy busy, but highly rewarding year professionally.

I am a firm believer that education doesn’t make you a great writer. However, it does seem to sway a lot of publishers and authors remain keen to tell us how many Creative Writing MA’s they have in their professional bios. So, while I have no reason to strive for a PhD, and the odds still are firmly against me, you never know, it might also be helpful should I decide, one day, to pursue the traditional publishing route. Many writing friends and people I am proud to call peers have done truly exceptional things, who knows, I might one day be able to walk behind them, and follow their very long shadows.

There were major losses this year too. I lost my grandfather, who I loved dearly. Also, there were sad news stories of close family or friends suffering with serious illnesses. So, my final note is my thoughts and prayers for them over the coming year.

Wishing you a wonderful 2019. May it be a year of happiness, fulfilment, hope, well-being, security, safety and success for you.

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