i’m reviewing the situation

I didn’t really want to go into 2015 with my last post being my last word on 2014.

Although it’s kind of fitting, in a way, because I haven’t been a big fan of 2014. It feels like a lot of bad things have happened to people, a few of them to me and my partner, which I won’t go into now because … whingy and tedious and just, y’know, life being life.

My main personal beef with 2014 is that it’s just been low-key difficult. I feel I didn’t really achieve what I wanted to achieve or get where I wanted to be. It’s almost like I’m going backwards. My happiest experience of writing and publishing has actually been just before Glitterland was released. It’s a weird thing to realise but I don’t you’re ever going to as free or as successful than the months before you publish your first book: you’re all potential then, so your horizon is limitless. But, what with one thing and another, the market, my own principles and preoccupations, it seems as though with every day that passes my options and opportunities grow more limited.

Those anxieties have basically consumed me for 2014. Not so much what to write, but how to sell what I write, how to grow and continue.  When GL was first picked up, it was so … uh … this sounds arrogant … but it was easy in ways it has never been since. It sat in slush for a month or so, and then it was accepted. I think it must have been beginner’s luck. Or perhaps there was something in GL I haven’t managed to recapture since. I know it sounds incredibly foolish but I genuinely believed that I could just keep going. That it worked like that.

Newsflash, oh my naive self: it doesn’t.

Like … duh.

But I am resolved to turn it around in 2015. I have friends, colleagues, an amazing agent. I believe I know more about writing, and I certainly know more about publishing.  I first began to write because I couldn’t find the stories I wanted to read. And I kept writing because I loved doing it. Neither of those things have changed. But it’s difficult for me to disentangle them from publication: while writing is a pleasure on its own terms, if I wanted it to be its own reward I’d keep a diary.

The good thing, in a way, about 2014 being rather wretched on the writing/publishing front is that – having spent the latter half of the year mooping around, feeling hopeless and inadequate – I’m kind of over it. It’s time to forge ahead, and try something new, and I’m excited and hopeful and more than ready.

So, in that spirit of optimism, here are some things I liked about 2014.

Queer Romance Month Was A thing That Happened

I was so thrilled by the way this shook out. It brought together such an amazing group of writers and readers – from across het and queer – and I still find myself remembering the posts occasionally, continuing to be surprised and moved by their variety, their honesty, their wit and compassion.

In particular I cherish:

The Winter Rain Anthology

I had a story called Behind the Mask in this. I’m was really very proud and honoured to be included. And, uh, if you have not purchased either Summer or Winter Rain I would, um, urge you to do so because all the profits go to RAINN, and the stories are wonderful. And mine is about queer superheroes.

I think I consider this my Achievement of the Year, and I’m incredibly impressed by Audra North all the time anyway, but additionally for organising this.

I very much hope to part of another Audra North Project next year.

Stuff What I Wrote

Winter Rain aside, I think I’m most pleased with Sand and Ruin and Gold. I think opportunities for that kind of writing – intensely queer, intensely personal – are quite limited, and the mood that led me to write SGR was rather particular. But there it is, written and published and available, and possessed of one of Simone’s very gorgeous covers. I also loved There Will Be Phlogiston because I’ve never written a triad before, and I kind of got to indulge a sort of fantasy, not necessarily for threesomes (which I can take or leave) but of family, alliance and love between the lost and marginalised.

I’m also very happy with the Teatime sessions over at Prism (you can find them all under their own tag).

And I got to do some reviewing this year, which made me very happy because I love writing about books. I did a series in support of Queer Romance Month, that The Book Pusher’s were kind enough to host.  And they are:

Stuff What I Read

Gosh, I read a lot – quite a bit of it for what you might call genre research (you’d be hard pressed to name an m/m novel I haven’t read – and no, that’s not an invitation to try) but for pleasure hmm…

Well, I did a huge Mary Renault re-read, not just The Charioteer which I had the pleasure of discussing with J over at Prism, but everything. She remains perhaps the most personally important author I’ve ever read.

I also Heyer binged because I’ve been a bit sad, and she’s my fallback for comfort reading. I, honestly, think I would take her with with me to the proverbial desert island. My favourites remain: Sylvester, Cotillion, Venetia, These Old Shades, and Frederica.

I did a lot of private romance binging, now I think about it. I binged on Cecilia Grant, Courtney Milan, Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh, Laura Kinsale, Megan Frampton, Judith James Jo Bourne, and Sandra Schwab. I … err … I think I’m probably a historical reader. Now I look at my tastes. I did read some contemporary set stuff as well … I just, uh, can’t remember them right now. From m/m, I continue to be a huge fan of KJ Charles, Harper Fox, Alex Beecroft Jo Chambers, Ginn Hale, JC Lillis and Vanessa North. I also loved AJ Cousins’ Off Campus, which came out yesterday.

For me, books of the year, which are books I happened to read (or re-read) this year, rather than were released this year are:

And probably a bunch of others I can’t remember.

I also really loved The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, which I found intricate and humane, and so tense in the middle section I nearly made actual physical noise. I didn’t get on with her last book – The Little Stranger – finding its brittle cruelty just too depressing, and I wasn’t mad keen on The Night Watch, but The Paying Guests seems to have found a balance for me.

I also very much enjoyed My Real Children by Jo Walton – diverting timelines seems to be this year’s literary theme. It’s quite a slow book and not exactly subtle in the way it contrasts the cruelties and indignities of one timeline against the other, but I dug it anyway. Found it quietly joyous, and tears were shed.

I was ambivalent about The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I find him dazzling for about 10 seconds, and then decide he’s just showing off, and my suspension of disbelief becomes unwilling. I did get sucked into Cloud Atlas, almost against my will, and I love Black Swan Green – this one, hmm, still thinking about it. Loved the beginning, but was left slightly unsatisfied.

I’m reading much less SFF than I used to, but I’m continuing to follow Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series (Jane Austen with magic) and I picked up Ancillary Sword, the follow up to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It didn’t blow my socks off quite as dramatically as the first book, but it’s still fucking amazing. I would also recommend Kate Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. I thinks she used to write as Sarah Monette, who I confess I didn’t massively get on with – rather a lot of Rape The Gay plotlines – but I loved this to pieces. It has a depth and intricacy of characterisation you don’t always find in fantasy. I also read Hal Duncan’s Scuffians! Stories of Better Sodomites. Which is, y’know, wildly and unabashedly queer, exuberant, and really fucking weird. Duncan is kind of a marmite author I think. But I did manage to read Vellum & Ink without eating my own spine so … I think that makes me officially a fan. I would also highly recommend The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine – it’s a 1920s-set fairytale re-telling, what are you waiting for? Okay, in honesty, it’s a little uneven in places, but it’s still amazing.

Stuff What I Watched

This is even harder to remember – H and I watched a tonne of reality TV (The Great British Bake Off, of course, being the high point, though I am slightly retrospectively concerned about bingate since it essentially boiled down to the Great British Public, including me, getting really annoyed at an old lady) and a tonne of superhero stuff. We watched Arrow and Agents of SHIELD, both of which are substantially more interesting in the latter half the series (which tends to frustrate me because I don’t want to have to watch twelve hours of TV before I get to the good stuff). But Arrow was all grimdark deconstructive in its second half, and Agents of SHIELD went conspiracy-tastic in a genuinely bold and surprising way. We’re also kind of digging Sleepy Hollow, because it has really a consistent and well thought-through mythology. And involves a hot cop and a British dude.

We also watched Black Sails because PIRATES. White Collar because eighty gazillion series of it were on Netflix, Orange is the New Black because it’s fucking awesome, and Castle because, again, we’ve sort of been watching it, so we’re likely to continue watching it. I think we got up to Series 4 of The Vampire Diaries but I’m worried it’s jumped the shark so we haven’t invested in Series 5 yet. We also tried The Originals but it was genuinely shit, and not in a fun way. We’re also quite into Hannibal, although it’s … uh … really oppressive and intense to watch.

We may also be the only people in the world who didn’t like True Detective. Honestly, I didn’t see the point. And if I have to watch one more show about how my masculinity is supposed to be in crisis I … I’ll be very bored.

And of course we watched Strictly. I … I’m not sure how to cope with the fact it made me legitimately fancy a bald, forty-something father of two:

Stuff What I Played

H and I played a lot of Star Wars The Old Republic because it’s a good way to play together and keep in touch with far-flung friends. I’m also quite proud of myself for playing an MMO in a not-too time devouring way.

My time and, weirdly, my patience for computer games is a lot less than it used to be. I do love to SWTOR with H, and J and I shot up a storm in Borderlands 2, and killed the lord of hell (repeatedly) in Diablo 3 … but I’d been looking forward to Dragon Age Inquisition all bloody year. And while I had a lovely time being dominated by a grey horny dude, I not quite found the … conviction/energy/whatever to finish the damn game. It’s had some wonderful moments, but it feels like about an our of fun squeezed into sixty hours of playtime.

I did, however, very much enjoy Assassins Creed 4 because it was the PIRATE game. I’ve weary of that whole franchise and AssCreed4 suffers from similar weaknesses to all the other games (boring, restrictive missions, and dull story content) but you get be a PIRATE. A PIRATE. So … yeah … that was happy-making.

I also had a brief weekend fling with Shadows of Mordor which is grim-dark Tolkien and incredible fun. I mean, incredible fun if you put aside its treatment and portrayal of women, and its colonialist undertones. Like the game play is ridiculously entertaining – but the context is excruciatingly embarrassing.

Gaming was, in general embarrassing this year. If you taking ‘embarrassing’ to mean appalling in every conceivable way. I am, of course, referring to GamerGate. The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Other Stuff

It’s been … oh, a little tense emotionally. I managed to lose two friends this year, lose in the sense of ‘irreconcilable differences’ rather than lose in the sense of dead. This was kind of big deal because having suffered more comprehensive losses, I don’t cope very well with what feels like it should have been a preventable parting. But I have also found friends, and I am deeply grateful to everyone who has been kind, funny or supportive in my general direction this year. It means an awful lot.

To 2015 and Beyond…

I don’t tend to make new year’s resolutions because I inevitably break them within in a day and then send a entire year feeling guilty and rubbish.

But I am very strongly committed to not spending 2015 in an anxious flail. I’m going to give up trying to fix something that is broken and move boldly in the future and see what it brings.

I’m also going to start book reviewing again because I enjoy it, and recent events have made me re-examine the reason I stopped.

Other than that I wish you all happy holidays and hope the next year brings you all good things.


20 Responses to i’m reviewing the situation

  1. Sylvia says:

    The highlight of my reading year was Prosperity and I enjoyed following your blog posts and QRM immensely, so thank you! I wish you a lot of boldness and success next year.

  2. Allison says:

    I’m sorry to hear that 2014 was not the best of years for you but I’m glad you’ve decided not to let it affect the coming year more than absolutely necessary. Reading Prosperity and Sand and Ruin and Gold were some of the highlights of my reading year. Which doesn’t even begin to cover your various posts around the interwebz.

    I hope that 2015 treats you much better.

    Thank you for all the projects you were part of this past year and for most specifically for sharing your words with us.

    Best of the new year to you, Alexis.

  3. Pam/Peejakers says:

    Oh, I love this post 🙂 Though you were slightly scaring me until I got to this “But I am resolved to turn it around in 2015.” Yaaay! And you will, I have every confidence in that & in you, my dear friend. <3

    So, even more hugs than I've already given you for all the hard times & bad & sad things & disappointments & loss. But a huge "hurrah" for 2015 & all the promise it brings. 🙂

    And also, curses on you for adding to my already mountainous TBR list! Because, obviously I have to at least check out every book you mention here, unless I've already got it/read it. OK, no, no curses, I take it back. Blessings, never anything but blessings for you dear, even if my TBR piles up to the Moon 🙂 Also, gotta say "Scuffians! Stories of Better Sodomites" – heee! That has got to be one of the more compelling titles I've ever heard 😉

    Then, last, but certainly not least, this, oh this: "I’m also going to start book reviewing again because I enjoy it, and recent events have made me re-examine the reason I stopped." Oh *cries a little*! You could hardly have said anything that would make me happier, for you & for everyone who will get the joy of reading those new reviews. So, like, no pressure or anything 😉 But seriously, I’ve been secretly hoping you might come to that conclusion & it makes me just . . . *ecstatic*! For all the reasons kiddo, *all* the reasons!

    So, again, all the blessings to you & to everyone you love & to everyone who loves you, for 2015 & forever. (Ah, you see what I did there? I've just managed to bless myself as well!) 🙂

    <3 <3 <3

  4. Thank you for your work, which I discovered this year and have been reading comprehensively. Both as reader and as fellow writer, you inspire me. Very best to you and yours in 2015!

  5. Mandy says:

    So great to meet someone else who loves The Great British Bakeoff. No one I know watches it. People just don’t take baking seriously enough IMO! 😉 The first episode of the latest series has just aired here in Australia so we’re yet to see Bingate.

    Mr Impossible is a favourite reread for me. I haven’t got into LC’s Dressmaker series but I’m curious about the new book she has coming out in April, Royally Ever After.

    The posts from Queer Romance month were amazing. I’m hoping this is an annual event?

    My career has taken a surprising late life surge so reviewing has fallen by the wayside a little. Although I must admit that just clicking on a star rating and not feeling like I have to write screeds has been kind of liberating. But I’m ecstatic that you’re going to be reviewing again. I used to look forward to your review posts so much. So thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. Here’s hoping that 2015 is a great year for all of us.

  6. E.E. Ottoman says:

    actually meeting you, not just knowing of you, was one of the highlights of 2014 for me 🙂

  7. Brona says:

    2014 has been mildly or severely sucktastic for a lot of people, so you are not alone in that. For me it wasn’t too bad, but kind of low-grade blechy.

    2015 is going to be kick-ass or I will know the reason why.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Dear Alexis–i’m touched to be on a list of writers you have read let alone you enjoy. Thank you!

    I just want to say–Queer Romance Month was not just one of the highlights of my year, but of the decade so far. Thank you for letting me be a part of it. <3

    Happy New Year, my friend. 🙂

  9. Beverley Jansen says:

    So sorry that 2014 was a not so great year for you and H 🙁

    You have figured quite a lot in the best parts of my year. You helped me more than you realise with our evening email conversations, when I was pitching my book during this year’s UKMeet, and after. You have given me the courage to attempt one of my lifetime goals, and good advice as to how to achieve it.

    Additionally, you have provided me with my reads of the year – Sand and Ruin and Gold is a sublime piece of writing and tears at my heart every time I read it. Prosperity and its satellite stories are beautifully written, refreshingly different and infinitely enjoyable.

    Trying to keep up with you and JAG on Teatime (and get a coherent thought in) are also shiny points in my year. QRM was another important part of my year…I learned so much and I am deeply grateful to you and everyone involved…I feel a better person because of it.

    Plus, GBBO and Strictly YOU GOT TASTE!

  10. Darla says:

    This is quite possibly one of my favorite posts you’ve written all year. I appreciate your writing Alexis–not just your breathtaking novels and stories, but your very thoughtful blog posts as well. QRM was a heady set of days there. Thank you so much for all your work–you are a gift to many. And, may I add that I’ve been dying to email you and Julio to ask What?/re: The Charioteer– Did Laurie sublimate his grand great love for Andrew in order to save Ralph? OMGasp! The book is so nuanced and subtle that I had to read and re-read…My throat was choked up and ached with unshed tears for the last half of that book. So, yes, Thank You for that too–your TeaTime with Julio pushed that TBRead to had to read in 2014. I look forward to reading everything you write in the coming year and I hope 2015 is stellar for you. Much Love and Glitter to you and yours! XOXOX <3

    • Pam/Peejakers says:

      Hmm, yeah, this reminds me Alexis, I seem to recall you were going to think about my super-long comment to The Charioteer discussion & reply “tomorrow”. That was like *ahem* Dec. 6 – ? Not that I’m counting or anything . . . 😉

      No, seriously, I do know, life kind of interfered just a bit, right after that. Like, multiple times, back-to-back. But . . . do you think maybe you *will* eventually have time to do that? I’m so much looking forward to hearing your thoughts about that 🙂

  11. Susan Ford says:

    Here’s to dusting off and looking forward. Thank you for Glitterland! I’ve read it twice already. Also loved Phlogostin (Rosamond! She’s perfect! Snooty and pissed off. Plus, I want a carnivorous horse. I know a few people who need to lose some limbs.) Loved Prosperity!

    I also love your blog posts and conversation. Looking forward to chatting with you around the interwebs.

  12. B. says:

    Firstly, I’m so sorry for all the parts of the past year that haven’t been what you needed them to be. I know there’s no fix or do-over, but I wish there was with all my heart. I’m extremely glad to hear that the charge forward is underway, however, and, while I wasn’t feeling very good about the coming year before reading your post, I am now inspired to do the same thing myself. So, thank you!

    Secondly, I wanted to say another thank you for the wonderful stories I’ve had the pleasure to read (and sometimes review) this year. There hasn’t been a single one I haven’t truly loved. (This may sound a little swoony, I’m so sorry!) Prosperity was my favorite story of the year, without contest. There Will Be Phlogiston added to the sentiment. Thanks to this series, I’ve come to thoroughly adore several new characters, and have happily reestablished to the rest of my household that interrupting my personal reading time may have unfortunate consequences. But, I’ve been reading another of your stories for an upcoming review, and I don’t think I’ll be the same again. Which is a good thing. I hadn’t even realized how difficult it had become to breathe until it was suddenly so much easier to do so. But, to feel so transformed by someone else’s words is an incredible thing. It’s a gift, and one for which I’ll be forever grateful.

    Lastly, there’s just a couple of other things I wanted to say. My TBR pile just exploded again. I, too, will be unrepentantly purchasing a huge quantity of new books in the coming months thanks to your recommendations, and I’ve already decided on the first two. I also wish you well in the new year, and hope that every happiness will find its way to you and yours.

    Thank you again.

  13. Ellie says:

    I’m sorry for 2014 a difficult year for you and I’m happy you sound so optimistic and determined for 2015. I wish you from the bottom of my heart 2015 to be more fulfilling for you in all aspects of your life.

    There were many highlights for me this and quite a few have to do with you – discovering your writing (books and all the other stuff on the Internet) has brought me so much please. QRM was unique experience which opened my eyes for a lot of things and helped me discover so many great stories I look forward to reading. I really, really appreciate all the things you do for your readers and I have got a gorgeous Shackles postcard on my mantle 🙂

    I’m very happy and excited about your decision to go back to reviewing. I love reading your thoughts on different books (not just m/m).

    Best of luck in the New Year!

  14. maya says:

    Wish you all the best for the New Year, Alexis! I hope it will be much, much better than 2014 for you.

    I discovered your books only 6 months ago but they made 2014 better for me. I adore Glitterland and SRG and Prosperity and Kate – you’ve given me many hours of happy reading. So, thank you, thank you <3


  15. Con Riley says:

    Your publication comments resonate, and they remind me that you were kind enough to talk me through my own ‘which publication path to take’ quandary last summer.
    I decided to set strategy aside, and I cut back on any time online that didn’t make me laugh, or make me think, or that offered a helping hand to other writers. It’s turned out to be a fab writing year with minimal angst that complements a day job I enjoy. Your advice absolutely helped me get to this point.
    Thank you.
    I truly hope you can find a similar happy place in 2015.

  16. Sandy says:

    I’m so sorry that 2014 has been a difficult year for your. Making the transition from unpublished to published is indeed a difficult one and exactly for the reasons that you listed: it makes a difference whether you’re just writing for the fun of it or whether you’re writing under contract. It takes some time to get used to the latter. But, oh my gosh, Alexis, you’ve achieved SO MUCH since Glitterland was published back in summer 2013. Look at the sheer number of titles you’ve got under your belt by now! That’s a huge achievement in itself (and they’re all marvelous stories, too). Add to that things like the very successful QRM (thanks again for letting me be part of that!), and you have every reason to be immensely proud of yourself. (((hugs)))

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