CHILDREN'S books? The Gates, by John Connolly

Morning / afternoon to you all! Cooler weather here, and happier times for it.

Driving to / from Boston this weekend, my wife and I listened to the audio book of John Connolly's THE GATES. Audio books are brilliant for car journeys, and a good narrator (as this was) can really bring a book to life.

THE GATES is a fantastic book - funny, scary, memorable and interesting all at the same time. Beautiful.

Listening to it, though, the same question kept cropping up, and it's not one I've got an answer for yet - is this a children's book?

The main character, Samuel, is a kid - but then the same is true in Connolly's THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, and that's certainly not a kid's book. There are plenty of jokes and asides in this book that seem to appeal directly to younger readers - encouraging the use of sarcasm marks when complimenting your mum on a good "dinner", or pointing out the foibles of adults in general - but then these get mixed up with discussions of the Higgs-Boson, the LHC at CERN, and particle physics.

There's also some pretty dark content in the book - some genuinely scary descriptions of demons, of death, of danger. I'm wary of saying some things are 'too scary for the wee ones!' or of using the phrase 'inappropriate content, harumph!', so I'll just leave it at this - the writing is brilliant, and the subject matter sometimes dark, so naturally some kids won't like it.

But are they meant to? Is this a children's book?

I'm not actually sure, but I'm OK with that. That the line between kids, YA and adult are getting ever more blurred has its pros and cons, but one definite pro (for me) is books like this - books that have dumb jokes and puns and dry, sarcastic footnotes, but also have plenty of drama and death and genuine fright in them. It's like Neil Gaiman's CORALINE taken a bit further - a book for whoever is ready for this book.

Not condescending or patronizing readers is something I want to keep at the heart of my own work. Be it voice, content, vocabulary or plot, you don't need to simplify to avoid confusing the young 'uns, I think. John Connolly certainly doesn't.

A quick update on my own stuff, now. Latest book's going well. I'm over a difficult plot 'hump', and the end is in sight. Unfortunately, a lot of what's written is spread across endless different notebooks / scraps of paper / computer files, so some day soon I'm going to have a big stick 'n' sew job on my hands - but hopefully, from that, will come a new, complete book. Raw, perhaps, but finally all together. Then the edits can begine. Huzzah...


Publishing news / Boston

I'm off to Boston for the weekend - hooray! It's my one year wedding anniversary, and an exciting and exotic trip to MA (History! Culture! Salty Tea!) seems just the ticket.

So, no exciting / witty / insightful / brilliant yet humble posts today. Instead, here's a link to another blog I follow - The Walk of Words. Her weekly Publishing Industry News posts are always fantastic - a roundup of what's going on in the publishing world, with great links to interviews, deals, breaking stories and more. I heartily endorse it.



Wednesday's Inspiring Book - Thursday edition

Just shaking things up, guys. A Wednesday post on a Thursday? Madness! What will I think of next?


Today's book is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Lots of covers around, but this is the one I read all those years ago

It's a sign of a good book that when you've finished, you recommend it to others -  then go and find more books by the author. Margaret Atwood is firmly established as one of the leading novelists of our age, so lucky for me there were plenty more to be found. Not sure what it is about this book that first intrigued me - though I'm pretty sure it was on my sister's recommendation that I even knew about it - but I know what kept me hooked; the voice.

Voice is one of those weird things in books that's hard to describe or define. When it's done well, it's perfectly obvious. If it's bad or bland, you can tell then, too. Still, it's a slippery beast. Just yesterday I was reading an interview with Little, Brown editor Kate Sullivan (here) and came across this:

When you receive manuscript submissions, what are the things you look for? What really catches your eye?

Honestly, I go for voice. That’s an unfortunate answer because voice is something that is notoriously hard to pinpoint and explain, but it’s true. For instance, many people know that I’ve been looking for a zombie novel for years. I’ve received a number of them too, but as of yet haven’t acquired any because I need the voice to be just right. Or as another example, I wasn’t actively looking for fantasy when Ash by Malinda Lo was submitted to me; I was surprised when the agent pitched it to me, but game to try it. And the voice won me over, absolutely seduced me, when I was even a little biased against it.
I will be honest that a killer concept will make me read more of a manuscript, even when I don’t connect with voice immediately. But in the end, it’s the voices in books that make them memorable to readers— Roald Dahl’s subversive, insider narrators; Suzanne Collins’s deft hand at tension; Madeleine L’Engle’s intelligent storytelling.

(Thanks to YA Highway and Michelle Schusterman for that!)

The voice in Handmaid is brilliant and memorable. The protagonist's complex world is made so much more terrifying and believable by her sheer humanity. First-person can be an odd way of writing, and it can go wrong, or just be confusing, if the author doesn't keep track of where they stop and the character starts. But Atwood is a genius, and goes far beyond what's necessarily, creating a brilliantly original concept and then putting that voice into it.

The ending of the book is what got me the most. It's a kind of epilogue, looking back at the book itself from several years in the future. It probably counts as meta-something, with the novel being viewed as a diary that the epilogue characters discuss, just as distanced from it as the reader is. Whatever the meaning, it struck me. Books can be so much more than just the pages, from beginning to end! I thought. Look what she's done here! This is amazing!

And I wanted to do the same thing with my life.

So certainly an inspiring book, and one I plan to re-read. Even if it isn't a Wednesday...

Simon out.


Why you should read, love and ignore writers' advice; or, "What does being a writer take, then?"

Can we trust other writers to help us to write? Can anything artistic, anything so personal, be spoken about in such general terms as to be of any use?
To misquote Mycroft, from the BBC's brilliant new Sherlock  - I don't trust writers? Naturally not. They make things up for money.
But can one writer give advice to another? A writer can hardly put pen to paper on the subject of writing without contradicting, in a dozen ways, others writers and their advice. Do famous authors take precedent? If Neil Gaiman says something that goes against something Hemingway suggested, does it count? Does it work?
Does it matter?
I'm going to share some of my own EREN today, and hope any editors reading this will forgive the spoilers. It comes from a part of the book when two children are visiting a library, on a mission to understand more about stories and the power they might hold. We join them as the librarian attempts to help ...

‘Here, have a read,’ she said, pointing to a piece of text. ‘The universe is made of stories, not of atoms — Muriel Rukeyser,’ it said. The librarian sighed happily and pointed to another. ‘To be a person is to have a story to tell — Isak Dinesen,’ typed in deep black letters.
‘They’re collected from all around,’ she said, ‘and I can point you to a few of the books themselves, if you’d like. Ah, how about this one?’ She read in a soft, distant voice that made me think, somehow, or rain falling on a garden. ‘‘The truth is in the tale. The world is in the words.’’
‘They’re beautiful,’ said Em quietly. We were alone in the library, the three of us, but we were talking as if there were others to disturb. Ghosts, perhaps, I thought.
‘Yes,’ said the librarian, ‘wonderful sentiments, aren’t they? So many people write books just trying to understand the things that happen out of them.’
‘And it works?’ I asked. She looked down at me curiously.
‘It’s not quite so simple, I think. Poets and writers have tried for thousands of years to capture that spark of humanity that makes us what we are, but still… still the world turns and there are horrors and terrors. It’s like… like there is something, deeper, something truer, and if we can just tell the right fiction, we might all work it out.’
‘Here, like this,’ said Em, pointing to another of the clean-cut printouts. ‘’The shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story’ —Anthony de Mello. Is that what you mean?’
‘Hmm,’ said the librarian. ‘I suppose it is. But what did you want to know, specifically?’ she asked me. I thought hard, staring at the display in front of me.
‘What does it mean, all this?’ I asked. The old woman frowned and clicked her nails together.
‘I’m afraid I don’t quite follow…’
‘What is it, Oli?’ asked Em. I sighed, feeling them both watching me. ’I have a friend,’ I said, ‘who likes stories, a lot, I think. He needs them. And I wanted to find out what that meant. To only want stories, nothing more.’
‘Ah, bookworm!’ said the librarian, moving slightly away, keeping an eye on the desk and the entrance. ‘Oh yes, oh yes — there’s always another story to explore!’
‘What friend?’ asked Em. ‘Back home?’
‘You tell your friend from me,’ said the librarian, ‘that there’s no need to worry about the books running out. As long as there’s people, there’s tales. Always has been, and touch wood, always will be!’

The quotations I put into this piece are all, to my mind, true - though others could easily accuse them of being essentially meaningless, subjective, theoretical, and wrong. That's for us all to decide for ourselves. And that, in fact, is my point.
Advice about writing is good. In fact, it's fantastic. Yes, new writers should seek out the wisdom of ages! Yes! Why turn your back on hundreds of years of craft? If you don't know the specifically literary meaning of 'craft', by the way, go and look it up. It's important. 
From advice about dialogue tags and verbs and tone and show-don't-tell, to more philosophical thoughts about what fiction is, what stories are, and what books can be, there's a lot to study before you assume the heavy title of 'writer'.
And you can ignore it all. If you want to be a writer, then at the end of the day, you have to follow your own advice. Want to use 'expounded' as a dialogue tag? Then do. It's your story, damn it. Think books should only be about making the world better? Good. Think they should only be about making money? Brilliant. As long as you know why you're writing, that's enough.
Don't ignore the thoughts and feelings of other writers who are, most likely, your betters. Most great modern writers of the last hundred years wrote, at one point or another, about writing itself. They're great. They're canonical. Don't presume that you're so brilliant as to be above a few hints and tips. But do assume you're good enough to rely on yourself, if all else fails. 
What does being a writer take, then? Experience living in the world, understanding friends and family, and a rock-hard belief, underneath all your doubts and worries and fears, that you can do this, and that what you have to say matters.
As Jesus very definitely never said: Writer, advise yourself.


Gnu Poem

I bought a gnu.

'Well, what a to do!' said my mother, who stood there and stared at it.

'What's it to you if I buy a gnu? It's me, and not you, who's cared for it.'

'Very rum thing,' said my dad with grin. 'A gnu's not a beast to take lightly.'

But there's lots you can do if you've got a gnu, and I clung to him ever more tightly

My childhood friends flew when they saw my gnu and me coming to pay them a call.

'It's not that we care, per se. Just can't be there today.' That was their stance, one and all.

There's quite a nice view from atop a gnu, and they move at remarkable speed.

So I bought a gnu, and now that's what I do. What more in life could I need?

Have a great weekend one and all! 



A Storyhive of Books

How many books do you read at a time?

Not, Vishnu-style, actually at the same time, of course. But simultaneously, dipping in and out, picking one up, reading a few chapters, and then leaving it to grab another story, and book, another dream...

For some this style of reading is probably a Bad Idea, and only ends in having a whole pile of books you've read parts of, and no further. It's something I've got into the habit of as I travel around. When I lived in Japan and routinely cycled through the countryside / jumped on the train to Tokyo, I found the books I was reading divided naturally into two categories; hardbacks I read at home and paperbacks I read on the move. A wonderfully arbitrary division than kept the stories I read nice and mixed up.

Kindles have made that particular problem a thing of the past, but the habit has stuck. I'm reading three books at the moment - Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent, Diana Wynne Jones' Eight Days of Luke (Yes, I know. Still. I'll finish soon, promise) and McCall Smith's Bertie Plays the Blues. Technically, I suppose, I'm still reading Murakami's IQ84, though I'm not convinced I'm going to make it through. I haven't touched it in months, so it probably doesn't count.

Many, many books indeed

This division of attention works with writing as well. Writing more than one story at a time can be a fantastic way to keep your skills sharp. Crossing genres and styles helps to remind a writer of the different tone and voice and word choice needed for particular pieces. If you're writing a YA comedy alongside a literary bildunsroman then (hopefully...) you'll see that different skills are called for, and that knowing this can make both stories so much better.

Working on the next book after EREN (not a sequel, just the next book I'm writing) has been fun, though I have found my pace slowing recently. Although it's not the second book I've ever written, it's the second with any real sense that it could be out there and read by others. Many things are different. It's third person and more action-y, though hopefully with the same voice as before.

I've heard that second books are hard. First ones you spend years on, perfecting, loving, keeping secret. Second ones have DEADLINES and EXPECTATIONS, and people who want to read it. At least, that's the theory.

So I'm also writing a first-person story, much more in line with EREN, to make sure I don't get tired out by working my way through less familiar territory. It's a story I've had bits and pieces of for a while, and now I'm stitching them all together. That's mostly how I work - bits, odds and ends, scenes, dialogue, and then a big stitching party, to make them into a narrative.

It's not so much multi-tasking as bits-and-pieces-tasking. Writing a few stories at a time. Reading a few books here and there. Though it might slow the pace over all, it keeps me level, more open minded, I think, and more aware of what it is I'm dealing with.

This post is named after my new collective noun for books - storyhive. If we can have a murder or crows, we can have a storyhive of books, surely?

 I think so.


Books to read while we're young...

Merry Monday to you all.

Some things in life are made for the young. Training wheels, for instance. Dungarees. Thinking Captain America was a half-way decent movie...

And some things are for the not-so-young. Some are boring - like taxes, telling people about soup recipes you found online, paying for petrol - and some are worth the wait - the freedom to live as you want, to own your own things, and Die Hard.

Live Free Or Die Hard
You know you would. 

Whatever the distinction, age changes how we relate to things, and that includes art, and books.

I'm reading EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE right now, and it's a cracking read, and did a brilliant job of filling a lazy Sunday afternoon before a thunderstorm rolled in. I often share what I'm reading on Twitter, and this time I got the following interesting comment;

  Bet you're wishing you read it when you were 12!

Know what? It's true. I love the book, but younger me would have loved it in a different way. Fiercer, probably, and simpler.

A friend recently confessed to trying to re-read Catcher in the Rye and giving up. 'I remembered it from when I was a teenager,' he said. 'It seemed so great then. Now I just find the whole thing mildly annoying...'

If there was ever a book you're supposed to read as an angsty teen, it's that one. Adults re-reading it often seem to come to the same conclusion.

So what's the line between children's books and adults reading children's books?

I don't know.

It's probably too personal for any general explanation. For me, books I read when I was younger were realer and rawer because they were things I wanted to do, but couldn't. Now, the same books are things I enjoy, but know to be impossible, and my adult brain takes care of the rest.

It's not disbelief - few kids actually believe they'll find Narnia / get that Hogwarts letter / [insert dream here] - but they still allow their thoughts to wander, and they ask that wonderful, magical question: What if? What if? What if?

Working on my own books, I would love to think adults could read the story of EREN and enjoy it as much as children. I'm sure some will. I'm sure some won't. But I do want to have a story, a book, that kids can read when they're kids and still remember when they're a bit more grown up.

I think it's a good aim - to write something people will read, but also to write something people will read more than once.

So that's my aim for this week, and the next, and the next, and the next and etc. Writing that speaks to people as people.

I think it's a good - if high - aim to have.

If you're writing a book, what's your aim at the moment?


50th Post Celebratory Extravaganza-a-Thon

Happy Friday, all! This is my 50th post on this blog - a nice milestone to take stock and think about what's going on / has gone on since I began.

I started this blog on March 1st, blogging about 'The Shame of Writing' and the paradox of wanting to be an author, but not wanting to tell anyone about it, thinking it seemed like such a pipe dream. I didn't have an agent at the time, but the whole point of this blog was to act as the focus for my newly concerted efforts to 'crack' publishing.

Well, there's been a change since then, of course. I'm represented by The Bent Agency now, and my shy-ocity has all but disappeared. On Twitter I make contact with editors, publishers, agents and other writers on a daily basis, and this is an intense privilege I don't want to lose sight of. If you're an aspiring or even established writer not using Twitter routinely, I would really, really recommend it. I've had back and forths with NY Times bestselling authors, the editors of several publishers both UK- and State-side, famous literary agents, Publisher's Weekly, the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, and even the brilliant and baffling Waterstones Oxford Street - always worth a mad few minutes. My point is that there is an ever present, ever fascinating, and ever helpful conversation going on across the whole publishing industry, and with a few quick hashtags you can drop in any time. So why not, eh?

I'm crazy thankful to the writers and readers who comment on the posts I put up here, with extra (and often way better) thoughts, links, hints and suggestions. Feeling plugged in to community is always good. If you're reading this, then you count too - thank you.

I've joined SCBWI now, and if I can make the leap to going to a meeting, I'll really feel like I've made it. In fact, speaking of 'making it', my boss at NY Intl has a good sense of humour, and at a recent work meet-up, my name badge bore this exciting description:

A joke, maybe, but one day ... one day...!

This post didn't really have a point, except happiness at having got this far, at least. Here's to another 50 or so to come, and whatever they'll be made up of. Books, I hope, and words, and thoughts, and maybe even some exciting news to share. That's my hope, at least. Cheers!


Wednesday's Inspiring Book

OK, I cheated a bit last time, and bigged up a book I hadn't read. Well, enough of that. Today's inspiring book is a real winner.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.

British covers till I die. Word.
I came to Gaiman later in life than I should have. In fact, I didn't know any of his stuff when I first met my girlfriend / fiance / wife, and that became a talking point. From her descriptions he sounded made-up, with his artistic friends and bohemian-cum-literary lifestyle. He'd make a good, if slightly unbelievable, character in a children's book, for sure.

Still, a writer she liked was a writer I would like, and so I went forth, adventuring.

American Gods is probably well-known to you all. I'm not going for originality here, or piercing literary insight. This 'Inspiring' series is supposed to be books that led me to where I am today. It's a personal thing. And American Gods certainly counts Not just because of the connection to my wife. Not just because I read it while I was living in Japan, and now every reread is infused with everything I had over there. It's simply an amazing book, and Gaiman's use of language, and his breezy, casual, natural way of telling stories, of creating characters whose dialogue is just as much a part of them as their description, is something I admire hugely.

We write in very, very different styles, on different topics, but that doesn't mean I can't steal from him, magpie-like, and hope that I can pick the nicest, shiniest bits I find and work them into my own nest / book / whatever fitting metaphor you like. His Coraline is much more in-line with my EREN, and I would love - love - to see them side by side one day.

Maybe if EREN does get out there, I'll line up all the books from this series, and take a photo. It'll be a big ol' literary journey. That'd be fun, eh? (Well, it would be for me, you meanies)

Go, read! Report back. Read some more.


Spider-Man Stories and My Newest English Books

I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man on Saturday. It's good - you should go check it out, even if it does seem like Hollywood's playing a big joke to see how many times, and how soon, they can remake the same film and still get away with it. I'm on to you, Hollywood! You hear me?!

The film ends with one of Peter Parker's English teachers throwing down a little bon mot - the kind of thing screen writers like to think is deep and spiritual, and will probably get made into Facebook statuses by angsty / deep teenagers. The idea?  That it's been said before that there are only ten story lines in the world - but that perhaps there is really only one: Who am I?

Now, trite superhero morals aside (With great power ... comes great responsabiliteh! Secrets ... always have a price! It is our actions ... that define who we arrrrreee!) the idea of limited story lines is nothing new. There are various ways of phrasing the idea, and various lists of possible contenders, but behind it all is the same concept - that though there's nothing original, there's always a new way to look at a story.

So, boy meets girls. Or girl meets boy. Or boy meets boy, or girl, girl. Conflict. Resolution. The end.

Can you really grind down a story and come up with an equation, however loosely defined, to explain story types?

I like Margaret Atwood because she always looks just the  right kind of mad

Margaret Atwood wrote a fantastic short story - truly fantastic - called Happy Endings, that deals with the different views and possibilities in an initially simple relationship story. You can read it free online here and, in fact, you should. Now. Right now. Do it!

The ending lines tell a lot.

That's about all that can be said for plots, which anyway are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what.

Now try How and Why.

The What in books is important, don't get me wrong. But the How and the Why, as Atwood puts it, are where stories get their individuality.

John le CarrĂ© puts it simply and beautifully, and way better than I could: 

The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.

So, conflict drives stories, or at least, something happening which requires an explanation.

Why do we want there to be defined categories? To be able to say there are ten, or five, or seven, or one true story in the world? Is it because then we could categorize and separate stories and make them neat? Or is it just because then we could understand better how they work and what makes some good and some bad?

In the end, of course, it doesn't necessarily matter. Even if there are only five stories, let's say, there are still endless options within each, and endless, infinite possibility for originality and surprise. The classic conflict narratives (Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society , Man vs. Self, Man vs. God) are still almost impossibly wide and all-encompassing. They're good, but not the be all and end all.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun, exciting movie, and the CGI is only getting better, but I've gotta disagree with Parker's teacher. Classifying story types into an easily teachable number is like separating the different types of emotion. Beyond broad, sweeping categories, anything else is ridiculous.

I don't want to get caught up in the pretension of literary theory too much, so now, let's change topic.

I got two books sent over from England recently, which is always exciting. The first is part seven of Alexander McCall-Smith's Scotland Street series, Bertie Plays the Blues.

I'm going to read this series till he stops writing them - it's brilliantly witty, engaging, and relaxing, which is not something you get in a lot of books nowadays. Weirdly, this series breaks a lot of the rules I talk about on this blog (planning your plots, having an endgame, etc) because of its format. Written in weekly installments for The Scotsman newspaper (a la Dickens publishing his novels in small installments all those years ago) it meanders on and on, following the lives of various characters, with no real conclusion in sight, but none needed. It's fun and simple and silly, and I'm enjoying it as much as the others.

The second book, just received, is Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones.

I'm writing a Loki-inspired trickster character in my latest book, and a quick Twitter post asking for suggested reading brought this to my attention. It wasn't available in the local libraries - a fact I bemoaned on Facebook. My Mum saw the post, and ordered the book for me on Amazon. Very sweet - thanks Mum.  (Yes, 26 year olds can still thank their mums. It'd be rude not to). There was a slight delay in getting it here, since she then started reading it herself and got hooked, which can only be a good thing. Looking forward to starting it soon! Have to admit - to my shame - it'll be the first Diana Wynne Jones book I read. I'm sure it won't be the last.

And that, for now, is all.


Plotting: The slog work of writing

You know what's fun? Writing. Know what's not fun? Plotting.

It's not because it's harder. In fact - and you're welcome to challenge me here - the opposite is true. Plotting is easy compared to actually writing. It's the wire frame that you'll build your float on - or the plain sponge cake you'll decorate and make your own. It's the bread and butter, plain and simple, just-got-to-do-it part of a book.

It's easy to think of plots and work through what's going to happen in them. This, then this, then that, then surprise twist, then denouement, then ta-da. Story ideas aren't really worth much - it's stories themselves, written or told or completed or shared, that take work.

For me, it's the writing that's fun. It takes hours, and editing, and moments of going oh for goodness SAKE why won't this work?, but it's the thing I want to do. Plotting? It's the necessary evil. It stops your writing going mad, waffling away, without purpose - but it always strikes me as the unglamorous side, the boring bit you have to do before the real work begins.

I'm using words like 'boring', 'easy' and 'evil' here and perhaps that makes me seem more extreme than I intended. I'm completely in favour of plotting out a story before you start. What do you have otherwise? A narrative with no structure or device, and all you're left with is a winding, voice-driven description of things happening with no relation to each other. Plotting a story is good - I'd say it's necessary for any tale to be a good read - but still ...  am I the only one who wants it to be over so I can get down to the words again?

Perhaps you can tell that right now I'm working through some of the finer points of my current book's plot. Everyone's where they're supposed to be, and I know what they'll all do in the end, but right now there's a big, blank hole where the next few chapters should be. I have to stop writing, work out which roads they all go down, or else risk having to turn back much later on and retrace my steps, wasting time and wasting words.

So maybe it's not as easy as I said. I guess it's easy to say you have a plot, just like it's easy to say you've written a song if all you have is the tune in your head - but shifting from that to writing it down and getting to the end, that's the harder part. Where writing and plotting meet - where theory becomes practice - that's where a writer earns their stripes.

'I've got this idea for a book ...' is one of those phrases a lot of people use. And that's fantastic. If more people wrote books, that would only be a good thing. But there's a divorce between having an idea - even starting to write it down - and finishing a story.

So plotting, to me, isn't fun, because it doesn't really mean anything. A story idea isn't much, I think, until the work is put in to bring it to life and make it something more than a few disconnected thoughts in your head. That's my challenge for the next stage of this book - make the thoughts into things, and turn those things into words people will want to read.



A hearty halfyear

July has rolled around, and 2012 has really hit its stride. Here in NJ, it's hit it with a sweaty, humid, coma-inducing heatwave, but it's hit it all the same.

Though I tend to blog here about specific writing- and book-related thoughts, the halfway point of the year seems as good a time as any to break with tradition.

So I'm going to look back -  at what this year has been to me, and what I hope it's yet to bring.

This has been doing the rounds online, and deservedly so. Books are changing my life in so many fantastic ways.

2012 started with my first New Year as a husband, and a sense of some grand, great adventure lying before us - paths to be followed, roads to be explored, and a wonderfully undefined and unknowable future. My wife had left her home in Japan, and I'd left mine in Japan and England, to start life in the States. New family, new friends, and new places all made life bright and brilliant.

By February we'd found a flat to rent, and both found jobs - not something to take lightly at the moment,  I know. The fact that they're jobs that allow us to write (more or less) is a particular joy.

Of course, my biggest moment, writing-wise, was signing with a literary agency in April. Within a two month period - a hectic, thrilling, nervous time - I went from slushpile query-er to agented author. It was a huge thing for me (and my wife, I hope), and felt like it set me firmly on the road to getting somewhere with the books.

Off the back off EREN's moderate success in that aspect, I started two more books. In part to keep me busy, and in part to have something more to show prospective editors, they're two very different books, but both ones I'm enjoying. As one creeps towards the 30,000 words mark, and the other fills with scenes and images that are dark and meaningful in just the right way for me, I dream on - that I could do this for a living, and not in my spare moments.

June was quieter, like the calm after the storm, or the deep breath before the plunge. I'm hoping for much, and scribbling away, and living life and enjoying it all. The weather's gone crazy across the U.S., and in England as well, and it looks like it might be a difficult summer for many. E-books and self-published books and fan fiction-turned-record breakers have a lot of people worried about The Future of Publishing, but that seems to be a pretty standard thing to worry about. I'll write on.

I'm hopeful. I think the second half of this year is going to be good. It'll still be good if EREN doesn't find a home, because I still finished it - I made art - and I'm writing more. I'm writing for myself, in the hope that others can love it, too.

So, here's to 2012, and all it might bring, for better, for worse, for the next six months. Cheers.