I usually try to post on a Monday, but yesterday was a bit busy. My partner and I were out at my grandparents place: we were donating the last of their stuff to an organisation called Bowers and we had a few things to clean up before that. It wasn’t until around lunch that the driver came to pick the stuff up, and he was a skinny, tanned white guy with a huge beard, and he looked a lot like the graphic novel author Alan Moore.
For much of the year, I suppose, the death of my grandparents has been the centre of it. I would like to be able to say to you that it was books, that it was my fiction, but it wasn’t, not really. My grandmother died in Febuary quite suddenly, and my grandfather six months later, in August. We had had to move my grandfather to a high care facility in the intervening six months – he was legally blind, mostly deaf, and suffering from dementia, though he still knew who his family was, and where he was, mostly – and he missed my grandmother terribly. After his death, one of the nurses in the home told me that she thought it was alright for people to let go at a certain point in their lives, and I thought perhaps it summed up the old man’s passing well. It was alright for him to go. He had always envisoned himself reaching a hundred, but when he did, his wife was there with him, and without her, it did not matter greatly. In one of his more lucid moments, he told me exactly that, in fact.
It was a difficult time, as anyone who has had relatives in the situation will know. Both had lived through the second world war, and in the last few years, the horrors of what they had witnessed had begun to bleed out of them, revealing stories none of us had heard before. It highlighted how little the pair of them were given support after the war, how they were expected, as people were then, to simply live with what they had seen, and to deal with it in a quiet dignity that is perhaps impossible to fashion after such events.
It is fitting that the year is ending with the finalisation of their estate, really. It was a year defined by their illnesses and, in the end, their absences, and I suspect the holidays will be quiet because of it. That will be fine. I think it is even fitting, in its own way. You should feel the absences of those that meant something in your life. And in a year defined by their loss, and the loss of other friends, I’ll be alright with a quiet finish to the year.
The other half of the year was, of course, books.
I have had no other year like 2014 for publication. Lately, stories such as ‘In the Broken City‘ and ‘Upon the Body‘ would have constituted a big year for me, but this year saw me in print in a big way with my first collection, Dead Americans and Other Stories, released in Febuary. About six months later, the first novel in my big, fat fantasy series, the Godless, was released. Sadly, you’ll not the similarities in time frames, but regardless of that, I was still totally pleased, and very grateful for my publishers (ChiZine Publications, Tor UK, St. Thomas Dunne, and Piper) for taking the chance with the work, and the support.
The Godless was the most surreal of the two books to be sure. As I left London, I saw loads and loads of the book in the bookstores in Gatwick airport, and people send me pictures of it in other airports, and in train stations and bookstores not connected to international modes of transport, and holy fuck, you know? For the first time in my life, people in my friends and family came across copies of the book in their normal shopping routine and took a photo of it. And, then, for all that, there would be strange moments of people being told a store didn’t have it because it was in hardcover, and I wasn’t famous enough. It wasn’t often, thankfully, but as a reminder of humility, it was there. Of course, now I imagine that they are all involved in building statues from solid gold in my likeness, so all will be forgiven.
In fact, I have a small story of the Godless to share, just briefly. The audio version of the book was released this week and Audible, who did it, send me a bunch of comp codes, one of which I could use for myself, if I felt like it. I couldn’t imagine a worse fate that listening to my own novel read for sixteen hours, but I thought, well, I ought to have a copy of it anyhow, right? Right. So I went to the site and entered the code, and discovered, because I live in Australia, I am legally not allowed to own a copy of the work. It made me laugh, because in Australia, one of the world’s biggest populations of illegal downloads due to various copyright laws and gouges in costs, I had seen this before. A lot, actually.
(Before you ask: I don’t have any problems with downloading. My publishers probably do, however, and that’s entirely fine. But, myself, I don’t mind. It would be hypocritical of me to say that I did. My only request is if you like it, please go and buy a copy afterwards, and either give it as a gift, or keep it for yourself. Doing that helps me, and it helps me pay the bills and buy groceries, and it ensures that there will be a next book. As much as I would like to tell you otherwise, if you want a next book and a next book and so on and so forth, you have to support the first book with your wallet. That’s just the reality of the situation.)
And, of course, leaving the parenthesis behind, both my books make excellent gifts for Xmas. If you’re wondering what to buy that disillusioned relative, or believer of the birth of christ, my books have you covered, in that neither deal with the holiday at all.
At any rate, the day kicks on, and I have things to write, and things to do. I’ll leave on a happy note and say that, while our beloved cat, Lily, died in March, we have had two new cats come to live with us since September, while they are upon occasion too curious, and too demanding at four in the morning, they are, of course, totally and utterly adorable.