Monthly Archives: January 2014

How do you beat the January blues? Easy. Forget the weather and escape into a good book…

The night before Christmas. In a few hours, all the decorations will be gone…

Last night was Twelfth night*, officially the end of the Christmas holidays, and traditionally today is the day that the decorations are brought down. It’s always a sad time, and I hate that job more than any other household chore. Christmas is such a happy, joyous occasion in our family that when the decs are finally boxed and returned to the attic, the house always feels bare and lifeless, and the festivities seem like such a long way away. 
As I write this post, yet another storm is about to hammer through London, adding to the gloom of the season. The pretty, wintry, fantastical scenes on the Christmas cards which will no longer deck the halls as of tonight are just that, it seems. Fantasy. 
Is it any wonder, then, that we all seem to fall into a bit of a funk at this time of year? With months to go until the first signs of spring (although I did spot Hot Cross Buns in the supermarket yesterday. Too soon, Sainsbury’s. Too, too soon), the prospect of going back to work after the long break and no sign yet of the days lengthening, there appears to be little to look forward to in January and February. 
But in a way, it is also one of my favourite times of the year. Why? Because I seem to do more reading in January and February than at any other time of year. I hadn’t realised this fact until recently, when I looked back on last year’s reading. I got through more books in the first couple of months of 2013 than I did in any other period, and with the beginning of this year promising plenty of opportunities to read, I’m looking forward to another bumper period of reading. 
And who can blame me, eh? What better way to forget about the absence of festivities, the appalling weather and the January blues than to escape it all within the pages of a good novel? 
It’s a magical thing that happens when you open a book and become consumed in the story and characters within. I love the escapism that it affords you. 
Last year, I got a bumper crop of new books for Christmas, but I began my reading year with a classic that I’d never read before – Oliver Twist.  Despite the fact that the weather and atmosphere in Twist is just as frightful as that outside (if not more so), it was wonderful to share in an adventure taking part in a world far removed from my own. It was thrilling, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to start every year by reading a classic. This year it’s Dickens again – I’m about to get stuck in to Great Expectations. A story I know very well from popular culture (and some excellent film and television adaptations), but remarkably, I’ve never read. It’s a book I know I’m going to love. 

When I’d finished with Oliver, I immediately got stuck into another great book, then another and another. As the bitterly cold weather clung on into March and April, I treasured the opportunities it gave me to do nothing other than check where my bookmark had left me.

A book at bedtime…my winter blues-busters.
Whatever the weather this year, I’ll be doing a lot of travelling over the coming weeks, and instead of fearing those long journeys to and from work, I’m looking forward to the perfect opportunity to enter another world. This may sound odd to many, but I’ve missed my morning and evening commute of late and I’m actually looking forward to getting that reading time back!
Books are an important part of this time of the year for me. By Spring, the opportunities to read will be diminishing. The garden will need tending, the social calendar will get busier, and the better weather always gets us out and about more; walking, cycling and days out all taking up time that in January and February seem to call me to reading. So I’m going to treasure this time, and make the most of it.
So if, this season, you find yourself feeling down and dreary, forlorn now the tinsel and bunting are about to disappear, why not do what I do, and make the most of it? Batten down the hatches, pull up the duvet and get stuck in to a good read…it will make the wait for Spring so much more pleasurable.  
Any excuse, eh?!
(*Or tonight is, depending on which tradition you follow. In my household, Christmas Eve night is every inch the start of Christmas time, so it counts in my book, even if it does mean taking the decorations down a day earlier.)

P.S. I can’t mention the weather in this post in such a light-hearted way without referring to the awful situation the weather is creating on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment. With the bitter cold and snow in the US and Canada, and the severe flooding here in the UK, I know many out there are suffering, or fearing the worst, and if anyone reading this is affected, please know that my thoughts are with you, and I hope that you remain safe, and you’re able to keep warm and dry. 

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2013 and all that…

This post has been delayed a few days due to a busy work period. It wasn’t quite finished ready for new year’s eve, and being the fastidious sod that I am, I wasn’t prepared to post it without doing my usual final checks (proofreading is everything, you know!) Still, better late than never…

It’s that time of the year when tradition dictates that we look back over the past twelve months and sum up what the year has meant to us. Last year, I had fun revisiting 2012’s highlights (and there were many) but I have felt less inclined to do so this year.

There are many words I could use to describe 2013, and not all of them are positive. I think many people have found it a challenging year for many reasons, and it has been the same for me and my family.

The passing of William’s wife, Sheila in March knocked the wind from our sails and made it very difficult for me to find the energy to continue with the Cypress Branches project. The launch of It Never Was You went ahead, albeit on a much smaller and quieter scale than I had hoped. A launch party seemed inappropriate, and with the momentum gone, I decided to leave the books alone for a short while and wait for the bug to bite again.

That short while turned into several months, and not much has happened in the intervening period since the launch. Happily, both Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You are still selling, with a handful of print and ebooks being plucked from the shelves each month. Hardly best-seller figures, but it’s something. It’s heartening to know that the books are being discovered by more readers, even without any real effort from me, and it gives me encouragement to up my efforts next year.

2013 really has felt like a transition year, but the changes that have taken place have been hard-fought and the road difficult to navigate at times. On a personal level, I have not only been settling into a new home, but also looking to start a new career, with most of my spare time this year taken up by updating CVs, applying for jobs, attending interviews and assessments and worrying about said interviews and assessments. All this has left me with little time or energy to devote to working on part three of the trilogy.

But happily, I can say with some confidence that things are looking up. A new chapter in my own life begins on 6th January when I begin training for a new, permanent, full time job (oddly enough, my very first permanent job, having been a freelancer all my working life so far!) For the first time in many years, I’ll have a steady income, a set number of hours (with the choice of whether or not I work overtime, rather than it being expected of me – and I’ll get paid for it!), plenty of spare time and consequently, plenty of resources (financial, mental, temporal) to finish the trilogy and promote it. It’s one of those odd paradoxes in life. I’ve not worked full time for over two years now, and have struggled to keep momentum going with the books. Now I’m looking forward to going back into full time employment so that I can spend more time on the project.

Having taken a break from the trilogy, obviously there is a backlog of work still to be done. Work is yet to begin on Part Three (and it still doesn’t have a name!) But I plan on starting that work as soon as I’m settled into my new role…probably late February.

I’ve already set out my plans for the blog (read the post here). I fully intend to put that plan into action, with new blog content, the website spring clean (which has turned into more of a reboot!) and exploring new ways to build the audience. The list of jobs is growing, and I’m looking forward to tackling them.

I know there are a lot of you out there who are waiting very patiently for the third part of the trilogy, and I know I keep saying that you’ll just have to be patient a little longer. I’d love to get it out there by the end of 2014, but I must be realistic and won’t promise anything, sorry. What I will promise is that work will begin again very soon. I will most likely go quiet again now for another month while I complete my training (three weeks of what looks like very intense learning!) but don’t panic, I will be back, then it’ll be all hands to the pump to get part three published (and named!)

I’ll sign off with a huge thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged me during the past year. It really does mean a lot to know that you guys are out there, spurring me on and above all, enjoying the fruits of the Cypress Branches project. To all my family, friends, the readers, reviewers, bloggers, authors, colleagues and more…I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and fulfilling 2014.

It promises to be an exciting year, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it is.