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:
- There was Thing About Trent Reznor by Cara McKenna
- Is That The Gay Romance Mom? by AJ Cousins
- Outside In by Lilia Ford
- For These Things We Are Beloved by Amber Belldene
- Love is Love by GB Gordon
- A Fantasy of Empowerment by Sandra Schwab
- Why We need Trans* Romance by EE Ottoman
- Pictures of Love by Catherine Dair
- closets. by Julio Alexi Genao
- Not Just a Nice Idea by Jenny Haddon
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:
- The Charioteer by Mary Renault
- Skin Lane by Neil Barlett
- A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant
- Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James
- Think of England by KJ Charles
- The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft
- We Won’t Feel a Thing by JC Lillis
- The Dream Hunter by Laura Kinsale
- Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
- Mr Impossible by Loretta Chase
- Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas
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.
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.