Oh, this year. Oh.
Here in Scotland, whenever a tourist asks the question, “what will the weather be like today?” we respond, simply, “Yes.”
(The implication being weather will happen. It might be rainy or sunny or windy or all three for five minutes in certain spots if you stand just so. It’s unpredictable.)
What was 2016 like? Yes.
It had 365 days, 52 weeks, and was year-shaped. It was also such a dumpster fire politically, socially and emotionally that I considered foregoing this round up and just moving on. But, then, I haven’t updated since October, so here I am! Hello! We’ll just ignore the politics and cover the personal.
The Falconer’s sequel, The Vanishing Throne, released in the US in June, in November in Germany and in mass market paperback here in the UK in September (it was previously published in large format PB last November).
Since it’s only my second book (and first sequel), it’s been interesting to see how many people have discovered the first book after picking up the second. The Falconer had so many new readers this year, and I have no doubt it’s because of other reader recommendations and reviews. I’m so grateful to all those who spread the word and took the time to write up their thoughts. Thank you.
BOOKS WRITTEN/STARTED + 2017 WRITING RESOLUTIONS
I spent much of this year working on The Fallen Kingdom. I finished the first draft in January, which I noted on Twitter was the roughest draft I’ve ever written. I then spent the next few months rewriting and revising it into something book shaped. I succeeded!
The change from the first to last draft is always startling, but this is the book I’m most proud of. The Falconer has a special place in my heart because it will always be my first; when I wrote The Vanishing Throne I honestly felt like I had finally gained a handle on my writing; but The Fallen Kingdom feels like my best effort and I can’t wait for people to read it. It will have a simultaneous UK/US release, currently scheduled for June 2017.
The completion of TFK means I’m out of a publishing contract for the first time since 2011. I’m scared. I’m relieved! I’m nervous. I’m excited! (My emotions are terribly inconsistent). I’ve been working on The Falconer in some form or another since 2009, and this means I finally get to leave it (with a definitive, conclusive ending) and move on to other projects. Scary! Exciting!
One manuscript that’s about 90% complete is a sci-fi adventure book I’m co-writing with the amazing and wonderful Laura Lam, author of Pantomime and False Hearts. We’ve been working on it in our spare time since October 2015 and it’s the funnest thing I’ve ever had the pleasure to write. I’d love it if we finished a draft by the end of January, which is doable since we’re at a very promising 71k words.
The other manuscript I’ve been clicking away on is what I hope will be my next YA fantasy book, code named Garden Book. I spent a large chunk of 2016 researching for this book and my goal is to have a complete draft by the end of March at the absolute latest. But I’m a slow writer and this book is the most challenging thing I’ve ever written, so that goal is lofty, to say the least. I’m remaining hopeful.
Lastly, I outlined an adult historical romance novel. I’ve always wanted to write adult romance since I love the genre so much and have read it for years. Even so, I have no bloody idea what I’m doing, but this is going to be my fun pet project in 2017.
If all goes according to my Lofty Goals Wish, I’ll have 3 completed projects in 2017. Wish me luck!
Last, but certainly not least, is my creative writing project on Twitter called One Tweet Stories. The idea was inspired by Twitter’s Six Word Stories hashtag (#sixwordstory), and I decided would be a lovely place to write little glimmers of inspiration. My goal is to post one tiny story a day, every day, until the end of 2017. Follow along here (#1tweetstory): https://twitter.com/i/moments/814441451438440448
I read 108 books this year, which is the most I’ve read in years. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but the 5 years I spent in the PhD programme and working on my own books left little time for reading. I set my goal at 50, surpassed that by July, and doubled it by November.
My favourite read this year was a non-fiction book by Robert Massie called Nicholas and Alexandra, about the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. I went into it knowing very little about Russian history and came out of it wanting to know more. It’s batshit, interesting, entertaining, backstabby and all real. Fascinating.
This year I discovered and read the entire backlists for Courtney Milan and Meredith Duran, who both write the most incredibly stunning, lovely, nuanced and feminist historical romance. Of Milan’s books, The Countess Conspiracy and The Heiress Effect are highly recommended if you’ve never read Milan, and especially if you’re new to historical romance. Likewise with Meredith Duran’s Duke of Shadows and and Fool Me Twice — the former being one of the most stunning romances I’ve ever read, period.
Other notables include:
Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss, which was a stunning end to one of my favourite YA series and I can’t recommend it enough so just read it, read it, read it. Also on the YA front was the sweeping, gorgeous Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and yes, it deserves every word of the hype it’s received.
My heart broke while reading Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, and broke again while reading Sherry Thomas’s The One In My Heart, but was revived with the laughter from reading Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me and Tessa Dare’s Do You Want To Start A Scandal? So many good books in a year where I very, very much needed books.
I’m setting my 2017 reading challenge at a modest 50 books again, because who knows what next year will bring?
I traveled a great deal this year, to the point where sometime in October I just wanted to sleep in my own bed and ignore everyone for a few weeks (I did this and I’m okay with this).
In January I went to a writing retreat at a lovely deer park just outside of Edinburgh, where I wrote most of The Fallen Kingdom. Here are a few shots I took while wandering around the countryside:
In March, my husband and I flew to Milan for a much needed holiday after I finished revising The Fallen Kingdom. Neither of us had been to Italy before and it was so incredible.
Our next holiday came in August when we spent almost two weeks exploring the Scottish isles of Jura and Islay, as well as heading to the north of Scotland to climb some mountains and see more beautiful scenery. Our annual Scottish holidays are always full of magnificent, unforgettable views and I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring!
September brought my busiest travelling period. I flew to the States to visit family, and ended up road tripping from California through Oregon, Washington, and Montana, then flying to New Jersey/New York and meeting my agent for the first time. An exhausting, incredible, lovely trip.
After a much needed month of rest, and especially after the US election (I promised no politics, I know, but context!), I felt like I needed to get away. Which is actually an understatement, since I actually felt more like: I ought to run into the woods and never come out again. Incidentally, I also met the lovely and talented authors Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg (who co-wrote Zenith, but definitely also check out Lindsay’s books The Murder Complex and The Death Code), who invited me and Laura Lam to stay at a retreat house on the Isle of Skye. I had such an amazing, relaxing, wonderful time. It’s probably the most necessary trip I’ve ever taken.
ITEMS OF A PERSONAL NATURE
And now onto the personal! If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you’ve probably seen the numerous photos I’ve posted of the cat my husband and I adopted from the shelter. Mr May has been hesitant to get a cat because of our uncertain UK immigration status (which isn’t in immediate danger, to be clear. We’re just preparing for the possibility we’ll have to move, as most immigrants without permanent resident status do).
I have been less hesitant because of course we would take our cat with us. I have an author friend who moved from London to Toronto with her dog — which is a Great Pyrenees, by the way! — and who took a ship to get him there so he wouldn’t have to fly. I used this story for leverage. “We’ll take a ship,” I said. “If we have to. We won’t abandon our cat.”
I should mention here that Mr May and I love cats. Like, love them. I grew up with six cats and my one goal in life is to have at least that many. Cat lady? More like CAT GOALS.
In any case, I convinced him (not that it took much convincing because cat goals), and then I went to the shelter and saw the most beautiful feline creature in the entire world and my mind said, that one. That one.
Her name is Jet, and she’s ours and we adore her.
And that’s my last order of business! Onward 2017, for better or for worse, but hopefully for better.