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So Farewell Then, 2018

Well, that was an interesting year, no question about it. I began 2018 fully expecting the sole highlight to be the publication of my second book of short stories, DIP FLASH. However, all that changed in February when, following a whirlwind exchange of manuscript and contract, I signed a deal with Farrago for the publication of my second novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT ARCHIE AND PYE, and its as then unnamed successor. I’m beginning to think that book deals are like buses. You hang around for ages waiting for one to show up, and then you get two in rapid succession – see also MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS and  DOT DASH.

DIP FLASH was duly published by Cultured Llama at the end of March and, despite bearing blurbs from living legends Joanne Harris and David Gaffney, it received about as much attention as collections of short stories from small publishers usually do. I would probably have found this upsetting if it weren’t for the fact that I knew that I had something else to look forward to later on in the year. However, it’s there and I know it’s got some good stuff in it, even if hardly anyone else does. Signed copies available here, by the way.

Given that as of February, I was now committed to writing a new novel by the end of October (which slipped a little in the end, but not TOO much), I made a rapid decision that short stories were off the agenda for at least a year. I wonder if this contributed a little to me not promoting DIP FLASH as much as perhaps I should – it’s hard to go around touting a book of short stories if you’re not actually writing any at the moment. As it happened, it was disturbingly easy to put stories to one side for a year, although having sent in the manuscript for the next novel, I have had the occasional twinge. We’ll see.

The edit notes on ARCHIE AND PYE came through at the start of March and I spent the next couple of months working on them, the most pressing issue being the reduction in the word count from 90000 to 75000. Helpfully, Abbie Headon, my editor, had somehow managed to identify every single part of the text that I’d secretly known had to go but hadn’t admitted yet. But it was still a tough time, especially as I was fully aware that every day I spent on the edits of Book One was a day that I wasn’t writing Book Two (which at that time still had a deadline of the end of October).

May and June brought the copyedits, all of which went through remarkably smoothly, and then everything went quiet for a while, enabling me to get on with Book Two. Actually, this isn’t entirely accurate, because an unexpected day job spike popped up in May, which meant that all my plans got shifted sideways once more. However, at least I was beginning to get an idea of what I wanted to write about in Book Two, if the opportunity ever arose to do so. In order to spur myself on, I started a word count spreadsheet at the start of June and I can report that as of June 12th (the first entry), the count on Book Two was a grand total of 3420 words. At the end of the month, this had soared to… 5008. As you may imagine, I was beginning to panic a little.

Fortunately, July was a lot more productive and the word count climbed to 18923 by the end. However, August was a bit of a disaster and I only managed to get to 27571. But I didn’t have time to be despondent, because the cover for Book One turned up at the end of the month and it was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped. Then the final proofs came in and it all suddenly started to feel very real.

Towards the end of September, ARCHIE AND PYE were launched onto NetGalley and the horrendous wait for that first review started. Meanwhile, Book Two crawled onwards, reaching the grand total of 36005 words by the end of the month. Knowing I was going to be away for most of October, I negotiated a delay of a month, crossing my fingers that it would be enough. As it happened, I only managed to add another thousand or so words in October, so on my return from holiday I was now looking at basically writing half a book in November. Or as other people call it, NaNoWriMo.

I have never done NaNoWriMo, dismissing the whole thing as a crazy exercise at a time of year when we’re supposed to be getting ready for Christmas.

Having now sort of done it, I still think NaNoWriMo is a crazy exercise at a time of year when we’re supposed to be getting ready for Christmas.

Anyway, I somehow managed to write about 32000 words in November, which enabled me to promise that I would DEFINITELY have the whole thing in by the second week of December, which I basically did.

All this may go some way to explaining a number of things, such as why this blog has been more than a little sporadic, why my email newsletter has been almost non-existent, what happened to my much-vaunted YouTube review channel, Lit Fart, why I haven’t read your book and why I’m still feeling more than a little knackered a week into the Christmas break. (I’m sorry about your book, BTW. I really will read it soon…)

I shouldn’t complain. I’m very lucky, really. Not many people get the chance to have two entirely different books published in a year, and it’s lovely to see so many people enjoying ARCHIE AND PYE in particular. What’s even better is that there’s going to be another one, A QUESTION OF TRUST, coming out in 2019 with a matching cover. Frankly, that’s the best bit of the whole thing.

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