Reflecting on 2015 & going into 2016…

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I don’t like generalising. Condensing a year into a single reflection is tough. Things get overlooked, or too much emphasis can be placed upon them, and the levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ times and experiences can easily get distorted. That’s the counsellor training in me! I don’t mind admitting though, that while I have a lot to be grateful for–being healthy, loved up, pretty comfortable, and don’t tend to go without–2015 had a few moments where I thought ‘is this what a mid-life crisis is like?’.

My job, and my ability to deal with it, can get me down. I like the principal of what I do–helping people get support for their mental and physical health problems, but it’s the practice and the application of it that’s stressful and I can get down or stressed about it. And it’s all within a field that’s under the threat of local government austerity cuts. The cuts came close this year and the insecurity got me down quite a bit and I felt generally rundown physically. I’m not really sure what I would like to do for a job, and everything that seems interesting has specialist entry requirement qualifications–and the need to belong to accrediting bodies. Having worked in social care my whole working life so far, as imaginative as might be between the sheets–I mean pages of my book, those sheets–I can’t imagine what doing other jobs would be like and how I’d get along in them.

Of course, I would love to have a job that’s more creative–being able to support myself through my writing would be so cool, but it’s not picked up enough to make a living out of it. It just about funds a monthly fix for my love of board games and table top gaming. It’s been more disappointing than usual this year as I spend a lot of time writing and doing writing related things. Writing, editing, creating images, even aspects of my social media–including this blog–are connected to my writing so I have an online presence beyond the virtual covers of my titles sitting on their little virtual shelves. Getting my work edited has also cost me a lot of money–on top of being hit for a second large maintenance bill for our property in as many years at a time I’ve been trying to get some money behind me in case I lose my job. Thoughts like ‘what’s the point’ crept in a lot in the spring. While I’m grateful to have the reasonably steady sales, there hasn’t been a dramatic peak, or a steady climb in interest and sales, and there have been few reviews, and I haven’t managed to connect with as many people as I would like. I kind of feel like I’m just shouting at the sky.

I guess the percentage of people that take time to write reviews or follow a writer is low–I don’t even do either of those myself other than the odd review on here–but I have always wondered how many of my titles that are bought actually get read, and how many are just suspended in almost existence in someone’s virtual catalogue like some Schrodinger’s cat. I think that’s one of the issues with pricing books at the 99p/99c mark–people buy up the odd title or a batch of them in a spree, but might not get around to reading them. With all this going through my mind while in the middle of writing the next run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’–titles that really don’t sell–I lost momentum for them and writing in general.

Thankfully, I can answer my own searching question of ‘what’s the point?’, and it’s because I enjoy writing. I can always bring it back to that. That being said, though, while I don’t want ‘fame’ or my vanity jerked off, I do want people to read my work and to have some assurance that the titles I knock out are enjoyable to validate what I’m doing. I guess it’s the whole cost benefit ratio and it’s quite skewed at the moment.

Not one to see lack of success as a dead end, or wallow or give up, I can recognise that writing a book that doesn’t get read is still an achievement, and it might draw in readers in the future. Hell, even writing a flawed book is still an achievement, as once the words are down they can be changed and improved upon. Seeing all the covers for my titles mashed together up there makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. I’ve spent less time writing and more time doing other things with my time, which balances out the whole questioning of the purpose and point of spending so much of my life around writing. I’ve started cycling, I’ve embraced my inner geek even more tightly than ever and I’m enjoying the sci-fi convention scene (and even a spot of cosplay) and I’m playing much more board games now I’ve managed to get my husband playing. Now, this is a very wanky thing to say, but I have been more ‘present in my life’ as a result and I’m having fun. It’s easy to forget how much space in my head writing takes up. I might be cooking, or watching TV, or having lunch with my partner, but a percentage of me would usually be running through story ideas and plotting titles.

It might’ve sounded pretty negative to begin with there, but this is a year that saw me have two releases–‘Get Over It’, a self-help title, and ‘The Pack’, a horror crime novel. So, even if they don’t sell, I’m pleased to have two books come out in one  year, and I have had a sense of achievement from that, and in knowing that all my old material is now revised and hopefully improved to a point that will mean writing quality and technical issues won’t let my stories down. Please let me know if you notice otherwise! This means I’m now free to create again, and I have a few projects I want to work on, and ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ will continue. I love Darkwood and Hobbs too much to stop playing with them, and knowing where those characters will be heading and what will be happening along the way excites me.

I’ve re-entered my novels into KDP to get  the higher royalty and seeing how many virtual pages are being read is cool. I was pretty pleased that some people spent part of their Christmas day with my writing–that was quite a validation for me. I will be focussing more on my studies, playing more games, and after that then writing will have its place in my life, but just a reduced and more contained amount. The whole ‘build it and they will come’ might work well for dead baseball fans and those fortunate writers that get read by the right people to create a buzz about their work, but so far that hasn’t panned out for me. I’m going to be trying to push my writing a bit more, as promotion is something I’ve never had the time to do much about, and is really important. I can’t just expect someone to stumble across me in the ocean of self-published works, and I really don’t think social media is the answer. I plan to approach review sites and find reviewers and hopefully it will get me some exposure. If you have any ideas then please let me know.

I have other novel ideas simmering away, one is a dark romance where a man–generally mistreated–comes into a fortune, but he comes to realise that there’s some cosmic karmic force at play where his gains and the influence it has in getting him what he want comes at a cost to others; another idea about a group of people who are awakened to having otherwordly powers and trying to understand them, with it being about people’s interpretations of power and perspectives on how it should be used; another about a psychological experiment on false memories that goes wrong–bringing about a victim that never really existed bent on revenge; a boy, and his drag queen friend find themselves pitted against a creature of the night in war torn London–all trying to survive the blitz; and I still have the follow-ups to the ‘The Pack’ that see DI Carter pitched against other supernatural mysteries behind urban crime which I want to play with. That all sounds pretty mixed up fun to me.

Anyway, it looks like the mid-life was averted and my inner child is intact for another year. Bless him. And I’ll continue bashing away at the keyboard hammering out characters and stories for them. I hope 2015 was good for you and 2016 is good for both of us. Cheers x



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