2016 has been an odd year. In spite of its cavalier attitude to celebrity lifespans and its blatant disregard for commonsense voting, opinion poles and the general prospects for the future of humanity, my 2016 has been a bit, well… meh! It’s not been a bad year, I’ve had some really good times, a fantastic holiday, and made some good progress with my writing. But I can’t call it a good year either. It’s been a year of waiting, a year of plodding on, a year of… hang on! This sounds an awful lot like 2015!
And therein lies the problem with 2016. It hasn’t given me the results I was hoping for. But then it’s not 2016’s fault, it just happened to be the year on watch while I didn’t fulfil my potential. Likewise 2016 didn’t kill all those great artists, writers, actors and musicians we lost this year, it was just happened to be there when it happened. 2016 is the lamp-post that we all drove into on a dark rainy night. It’s not the lamp-post’s fault. It’s not 2016’s fault. The only person I can blame for me not getting where I wanted to this year is me.So when 2016 turns into 2017 I’m going to do everything I can to get me where I want to be by 2018. But before I dive into my over-complex plans for world domination, here’s a brief look back at my 2016.
I start the year by planning what I hope to achieve in the next twelve months. Some of this happens, some of it doesn’t. I also release the third video in my new YouTube series, Writing & Stuff, featuring advice for writers from my agent Juliet Mushens.
More Writing & Stuff fun, this time with my good friend and collaborator Chris Chatterton. We talk about picture-books and making a living as an illustrator, all from the inside of a car at night! I also complete draft two of Project Artichoke.
For tax reasons I spend the month as a tree. For the most part this is an extremely enjoyable career change. I enjoy the wind blowing through my branches, the early morning conversations with the birds and insects, but there’s a dog called Muffin who relieves himself on me every day. My bark shows signs of staining. I really want to kick Muffin.
The third draft of Project Artichoke is done, and I manage to do a few drawings to go along with the text. I don’t get enough time to draw these days, so it’s a fun diversion. I’m also appointed at the Patron of Reading at North Durham Academy Academy.
I’m invited by the Queen to play in her back garden and eat tiny sandwiches. Hard to believe but it’s actually true! I behave myself and manage not to get involved in an international incident. Really, it wasn’t my fault.
I fulfil a lifetime ambition when I meet Apollo Astronaut and all-round legend Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin. They say don’t meet your heroes but Buzz didn’t disappoint. He was funny, eccentric, energetic and enthusiastic, keen to promote the colonisation of Mars and beyond.
I finally get some copies of the Brazilian edition of Timesmith, even though it’s been out over there for about a year. Apparently this is due to a temporal rift in the space-time continuum that has opened up in the local postal depot. The postman babbled about dinosaurs and robots, he even said Trump would be President, but I could smell alcohol on his breath so I’m not sure what to believe.
I take a much-needed holiday in the beautiful landscape of Lake Garda in Italy. I take a break from writing too, leaving my laptop in England so that I could completely relax and read books. The only downside of the holiday is the return to reality at the end.
The first draft of my latest book, cryptically known only as Project Nova, is done. This is my fifth book! How on earth did that happen? The shock of this plunges me into a deep coma that lasts for eighteen seconds.
I am officially named as the new Chair of the Society of Authors regional group, Authors North. The power goes to my head and I invade Waterstones in Middlesbrough and declare it as an independent state. I am accepted as the foretold leader of legend, until the food runs out and we resort to using books as clothing, weapons and sustenance. The new republic lasts just six hours. Fourteen people remain unaccounted for.
One of the most influential comic artists of my youth, Steve Dillon, passed away this month. Steve was a major inspiration in my early years trying to be a comic artist. His work continued to innovate and inspire throughout his career, and his death is a massive loss to the comic industry.
In the rush towards Christmas I manage to squeeze in an amazing night watching Rogue One, including a cast and crew Q&A. And I discover an intriguing connection between me and the director Gareth Edwards. I also manage to finished the second draft of Project Nova. The third draft will be done over the Christmas break, ready to be sent out in January.
So that was 2016. Thanks for reading, sharing, buying my books, coming to my events, and all the other things that you do to support me and other writers. I hope 2017 is the year you want it to be. Niel x