Life What has a hazelnut in every bite? Topic. I didn’t really have one in mind when Ian kindly invited me to write a guest post for his 2014 review, then I remembered I have a new book due for release this December.
And what better respite from the deluge of carols and Christmas pop tunes in the cafes and shopping centres of the world than the sound of an author blowing his own trumpet?
On the other hand, I didn’t really want to make this a commercial.
Now, in fairness, my Evil UnLtd books aren’t all about self self self, since if you put them on your shelf shelf shelf all royalties will go to Cancer Research UK so a purchase (of ebook or paperback) is all in a good cause. And in looking back on this year it’s impossible for me not to think on this, the fourth volume in this increasingly epic sci-fi series of mine.
It’s about time, as the tagline said of the Doctor Who TV Movie. Which is to say, this instalment is about time (my DW novel Emotional Chemistry featured four different modes of time travel and I think I may have outdone that with this one). And it’s also an admission that I took my own sweet time writing it.
You can put that down to my meticulousness and exacting standards. And if you’ve scribbled as many Doctor Who reviews as I have, complaining how many of the episodes don’t make sense, you’re under some additional obligation to take care over your own writings and make sure the dots all join up sensibly. Even more important, I suppose, when those writings are a fiendishly fangled Evil time-travel adventure. And if it turns out the tangled web of time is riddled with mistakes, well, readers are invited to make omelettes out of all the egg on my face.
Time allegedly flies when you’re having fun and it’s true to say I always have great fun writing these books. They’re supposed to be funny, after all, so it’s a good sign if I’m having a laugh or several along the way. Hopefully folks will have nearly as much fun reading them.
But time only flew occasionally. Sometimes it crawled, sometimes it got completely away from me, sometimes it had trouble dragging itself out of bed in the mornings, sometimes it crashed altogether. Because, at the risk of a brief moment of sobriety ahead of the impending festive season, there was one other major feature to characterise my 2014 and definitely played its part in slowing up the creativity.
Depression, to give it a name. The black dog, to give it another.
It’s hounded me (haha) for years, but this last year was particularly tough, turning at times into an obstacle course of deep troughs and huge mountains to climb. I mention this not to cast a downer on everyone’s Christmas, but because depression is far from uncommon and none of us should be afraid to fess up to it. Also because one other 2014 memory that springs too readily to mind is Robin Williams, a warm and very funny guy now who inherited RIP after his name in August. A sad loss, for him and us.
It’s particularly easy to fall prey to the black dog at this time of year and I wish I was brimming with wisdom and bright advice for other sufferers out there, but even if we are not alone but we do face it largely alone. What works for me may not work for you.
What worked for me this year is that I made it to December with a finished book to show for it. And a comedy at that. Depression’s not entirely useless in that it does fuel some measure of the cynical humour that colours much of the Evil UnLtd series. I guess that’s key: for one, it helps to laugh, even at the crappiest things in life, for two, it’s a matter of turning even the darker emotions to some sort of advantage.
It’s like turning fat into muscle. And as anyone with a lapsed gym membership will tell you, that’s hard work. But just as we needn’t be afraid to talk about it and should never be afraid to get help, we really need to not be afraid of the hard work it takes to negotiate that daily assault course and stay ahead of that damned black dog snapping at your heels.
So, I guess ultimately what I (finally) wanted to say here is this:
Happy Christmas. But in case it’s not, don’t be afraid of the big black dog. It may pee all over your Christmas tree, but it can be trained.
I can’t claim to have mastered it but at least for this year I can count my achievements as well as my blessings. A fourth book in a series is no mean feat, plus I’ve continued to produce short fantasy fiction in my Tortenschloss Chronicles at the rate of an episode a week and managed various other bits of creativity in the face of adversity. And knowing that feels like an encouraging pat on the back. So if you’re looking back on your 2014 and it’s been a rough one, I recommend counting anything and everything you’ve achieved, no matter how small. And if it was a struggle to get this far, well, d’you know what? That makes those achievements all the more notable and valuable. Count em twice.
There. That’s me done with being sober for the year.