|A picture from a slightly more wintry winter.|
So, a few quick words on 2015.
It was a tough start to the year. Cate's mum passed away just before last Christmas, which was a huge blow. Pauline was a kind, funny lady who had deserved better from life than she ever got, but never let it get her down. I'd liked her a great deal and wish there'd been time to know her much better, and she and Cate were very close. Seeing the person you love in that kind of pain and being helpless to make it go away is awful.
Plus, we were still living in the neighbourhood where Cate and her mum had lived for decades, in The House Of Damp And Mould (and perenially malfunctioning boiler.) I hadn't published a novel in three years, unless you counted the serial Black Mountain, and still didn't have an agent. (Although I was working on a new novel for Solaris, so it wasn't completely bleak.)
A lot has changed since then.
Cate's lovely and moving piece here says more than I could about coming to terms with loss. We moved in June from Tuebrook to the Wirral, to a little house we both love. There are plenty of green spaces close to hand, we're fifteen minutes from the beach by bus and our landlord's great. It's a new start, and it's done us both good. And we've set the date for our wedding next year - this year, I mean.
Hell's Ditch, which I'd started to fear would never see daylight, found a home with Snowbooks and came out last month. It's the first book in a story that's been steadily evolving since I was nineteen. I started writing it back in 2010, broke off for 2011 to write The Faceless and finished it in early 2012 before the long hard task of shopping it around began. Now it's out, and suddenly the rest of the Black Road needs to be travelled. In a few weeks I have to go back to the world of Helen and Gevaudan, Danny and Alannah, of Dr Mordake and Colonel Jarrett and Tereus Winterborn, and start writing about it and them after a three year absence (although I did pop back for a couple of brief visits without too much trouble.) It's exciting, and it's scary. All being well, The Devil's Highway will be out in October. (The paperback of Hell's Ditch will be released this March.)
I finished the novel for Solaris, The Feast Of All Souls (the original title, Redman's Hill, was felt to sound too like a Western for American readers!) and that'll be available in December 2016. Watch this space for a reveal of Ben Baldwin's brilliant cover art.
In between the first and second drafts of Feast, I wrote another book - a crime novel, belted out hard and fast, at white heat. It was great fun, and it got me an agent.
Four short stories came out, including 'The Face Of The Deep' in GAME OVER, which was singled out for praise by the Financial Times, and 'Horn Of The Hunter' in THE SECOND SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES - one of fourteen stories picked out of over 800 submissions! The others were 'The Climb' in Black Static #49 and 'No Room For The Weak', published on Mark Allan Gunnells' blog as part of the Hell's Ditch blog tour.
So 2015 ended a hell of a lot better than it started. It wasn't an unbroken uphill climb, of course: there were setbacks and downturns along the way. Especially in the wider world. There was the election result back in May: Britain, already a darker, meaner and more frightening place, is becoming more so. And then there were the horrible massacres in Paris, Baghdad and Beirut, and the vicious racism and hatred that's arisen in response to them. And the Christmas period has brought a succession of horrendous storms with torrential rain and flooding across many parts of the country. There will, very likely, be more to come. But there's still good in the world; there's compassion and kindness and love. Sometimes I think there's actually enough of it. But I always was an optimist.
However good things are going, something can always happen to pull the rug out from under. But just
because it can doesn't mean it will. So I'm starting 2016 with guarded optimism: there's a lot of hard work ahead, and not everything will be easy. But I have my health (touch wood), I'm with the woman I love and I've reached a couple of professional milestones.
2016 will see two novels published - The Devil's Highway and The Feast Of All Souls. And in a couple of weeks, my novella Angels Of The Silences will be reissued by Omnium Gatherum (and here's the new cover art - ain't it beautiful?) It's going to be a busy year in every way: hopefully it will be followed by more.
Happy New Year to all of you. I hope it brings you everything you want, need and hope for.