2014 In Review

Written one day before the end, as I’m at a party tomorrow night where I will be watching other people get a bit drunk, and possibly end up playing some sort of game. My friends are not the riotous type, by and large, and that’s a good thing.

The beginning of 2014 was looking promising. In 2013 I’d submitted an urban fantasy series to Del Rey UK and nearly, oh-so-nearly got taken on, but the urban fantasy market is a swamped place to be right now because everyone wants to be as cool as Jim Butcher, and they eventually decided against it. Disappointed but not disheartened, I fashioned a rollicking sci-fi adventure series based around space smugglers who get caught up in INTRIGUE and SHENANIGANS, with a diverse cast: Ichabod Drift, the flirtatious, dashing Mexican captain with a cybernetic eye; his grim and taciturn American business partner, Tamara Rourke; the Chang siblings from China, Jia the egotistical and erratic pilot and her brother Kuai, the passive-aggressive mechanic with a thing for pony animations; Micah, the abrasive Dutch mercenary; Jenna, the young American tech expert with a secretive past; and Apirana, the massive Maori ship hand with the soul of a gentleman and the anger management issues of a wolverine on crack cocaine.

The initial proposal had gone into Del Rey before the New Year, but wheels turn slowly in publishing. Nonetheless, I was optimistic: having got within touching distance of a publishing deal only to miss out was frustrating in one sense, but massively encouraging in another because let’s face it, most people don’t get that far. Also, I’m good at waiting (disclaimer: I’m good at waiting within a pre-set time period, whatever that may be. Once that time period has expired, damn straight I want an update). And so I waited, in hope that I’d get some good news.

The day before my wife’s birthday, I had a car accident: nothing major, but enough to take my car off the road. That was pretty miserable. However, a couple of hours after that happened I got the news I’d been waiting for: Del Rey wanted Dark Run, my new sci-fi project. That was pretty bloody awesome.

And then they gave me this:

Look at it. LOOK AT IT.
Look at it. LOOK AT IT.

 

Having someone create artwork relating to something you’ve created is an awesome feeling, especially when they’ve done such a great job with it. The battered spaceship hull feel of the background, the painted-on look of the title, and the fact that they’ve included a stylised version of Drift’s mechanical eye in it… brilliant. I showed it to a colleague at work who commented “I’d buy that in a Waterstones 3-for-2”, and to be fair you can’t ask for much more as a debut author than a book cover which makes people think “Ooh, that looks interesting!”

There’s been a buttload of work involved, of course. I did a couple of big revisions of Dark Run from the initial draft, plus the later copyedits and page proof checks. However, that’s all done now and the finalised manuscript is with Del Rey to be published on June 4th. What’s more, I’ve finished the first draft of the sequel Dark Sky, and that’s now awaiting feedback. It was a strange experience writing a novel when I knew while writing it, for the first time ever, that I was going to get paid for it. I’ve written five novels before Dark Sky (Dark Run, three of the afore-mentioned urban fantasy series, and one dystopian-future thing which I wrote to see if I could actually finish a novel, and which will probably never see the light of day).

Also, I’ve seen the projected cover for Dark Sky. It’s just as awesome as the one for Dark Run, but I can’t show it to you yet for mystical, magical reasons involving unicorns.

However, writing was not the only thing going on for me in 2014. I have a ‘real’ job (I know… how passé) with a homelessness charity, and let me tell you that the last few years haven’t been very kind to those of us working in the voluntary sector. However, I’m thankfully now well-ensconsed in a part of it which is less vulnerable to funding cuts than most. What’s more, my wife (who works for the same organisation) has got a bit of job security now, at least as much as you can reasonably hope for in our line of work. It’s a relief to know that Ichabod Drift and the crew shouldn’t be called upon to pay the mortgage, at least for a while.

And then there’s the music! My punk band played several gigs over the last year, although not as many as we might because we took a break for a few months to bed in a new singer. I’ve been the main singer in every band I’ve been in… ever, actually… but this year I really noticed that my voice was struggling. Not so much when it was in good form, but any time I got a cold my voice took a hammering and wasn’t right for about six weeks or so afterwards. You can get away with not having a perfect voice in a punk band, but you do need to be able to hit most of the notes (at least in the sort of punk we do). So my friend Emma stepped up and now she’s our ‘main’ singer, while I’m throwing in whatever I can handle at the time to back her up. Also, we got to play at Rock City, Nottingham’s premier rock venue, which was pretty awesome.

Yes, that’s a Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart badge on my guitar strap. I’ve had that since I was seven.

As well as playing in my band, I also did a couple of DJ slots. The Nottingham Trent University’s Rock Society has a clubnight with a couple of regular DJs (one of them being the bassist in my band), and they have a revolving set of guests. I got to fill on on Valentine’s Night and Hallowe’en, both of which were excellent fun.

Also, we got a royal python. Called Dresden.

FEAR ME.

 

Finally, quite apart from a couple of wonderful holidays with my wife to London and the Lake District, 2014 was also awesome because our male cat Spike, who became diabetic at the end of 2013, recovered from diabetes in January of 2014 and has remained undiabetic ever since! Cats are the only animal which can recover from diabetes and Spike is probably the most wonderful, happiest, purriest cat ever, so while he was very easy to inject with insulin (he just purred… he purrs at most things) it’s great that he’s healthy again.

Long cat is long. And wide. And cat. There’s just a lot of cat there.

 

So I’ll see you all in 2015, the year (as Rob my agent keeps saying) of the Dark Run. May it be as good to all of us as 2014 has been to me.

ROCK AND/OR ROLL, MOTHERCRUSHERS.

 

Mike

 

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