Looking back at 2019…

As we say goodbye to the year that was, I’m going to try something I’ve thought about a few times, but have never actually followed through with: a ‘best of’ post for last year.

In fact, this is the first in a series of two posts – this one will be all about reflecting, then later in January I’ll get back to you with my hopes and plans for 2020.

But more about that later…

 

For now, here are some of my highs and lows for 2019!

The first few points are some of my big successes this year:

 

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon

2019 was all about this new series – Darkstar Dragon came out in the autumn, and it was really well received – most reviews loved the weird world of the Darkstar, and it currently has the highest star rating of my books over on Amazon’s US store. I was nervous about bringing out a book in a totally new series, and results like this suggest it was a good idea.

 

And They Were Never Heard From Again

At the start of 2019, I republished this story as a digital freebie on all ebook platforms. Throughout the year, thousands of people have downloaded it, providing a constant stream of new Yarnsworld readers.

 

TV/Film representation

Also at the start of the year, I was contacted by some agents from United Talent Agency who wanted to represent my work, to try to bring the Yarnsworld books to the screen. Obviously, I was thrilled by the interest. Now, it is worth mentioning that having an agent does not guarantee anything ever happening, especially when you look at other (much more successful) authors who have yet to have their work translated into tv/film, and for most of 2019 there has almost been a dispute between the Writers Guild of America and most agencies which has pretty much stopped any progress from being made. However, having these guys reach out to me was a huge confidence boost, and it has resulted in some big names getting their hands on my writing…

 

As I’m not the kind of person who likes to blow my own trumpet, I feel I should also point out some of the stuff that hasn’t gone as well this year:

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon

Yep, you read that right. Critically, Darkstar Dragon did well, but it (as yet) has not sold as well as I had hoped. After an initial bout of despair, I’m trying to not dwell too much on that fact – after all, it did considerably better than They Mostly Come Out At Night did on release, and that ended up being my best selling title of 2019 – and have had a bit of time analysing what I might have done wrong, to try to turn things around for the series in 2020. But, I couldn’t make a list like this without mentioning it.

 

My writing speed

If you’ve been receiving these updates for a while, you might remember that last year I promised to release two novels in 2019. That did not happen. The good news is, most of the second book is now complete, so I should be able to deliver on 2020’s promise, but more on that next time.

 

My reading speed

I yet again (for the third year in a row) failed my Goodreads Reading Challenge, managing just half of what I had hoped to read. Not only that, there are books that some friends have written that I really WANT to read, I just haven’t gotten round to it. I’ve also let one person down in particular by promising to beta read their writing, and then spent months reading it. Most of my reading this year has actually been through audio, which I’m more consistent at fitting into my day – I think I need to bite the bullet and admit that (especially where ebook and print are concerned) I’m a slow reader, and need to organize my reading for 2020 accordingly.

 

My top stuff of the year!

It isn’t all bad, though! 2019 was a year where I got to sample some great forms of entertainment. To finish things off, here are a few of my favourites from the year.

 

Best book of the year

My plan had been to pick just one ‘winner’ for each of these categories, but I’m going to have to cheat with books – there were so many amazing titles that thoroughly entertained me throughout 2019. The ones that particularly blew me away (in no particular order) were:

Arm of the Sphinx followed by The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft. Josiah is a good friend, and he is also a top-tier author. The world, characters and prose of The Books of Babel continues to delight and inspire me.

Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike. I laughed like a fool.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. The audiobook was narrated by the author, who is also a professional voice artist. A well researched alternate history of the space race, with characters who live and breathe on the page.

Jade War by Fonda Lee. A rare day-one purchase for me, and I’ll admit I was worried it wouldn’t live up to how much I loved the first in the series. Thankfully, the magic was still there, and I can’t wait for the conclusion next year.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I’m not the first to say that this book was a delight. Such a different take on the fantasy genre, with a hesitant, timid, yet very likeable main character, I ended up finding a lot of joy in the complex political system (and the naming conventions!) of this world.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. I, again, laughed like a fool.

 

Best Film of the Year

Compared to books, I actually find this category harder to fill, as although I enjoyed a lot of films this year, none completely blew me away. At a push, I reckon either Knives Out (for its twisty plot and or Rocketman were my favourite of 2019, depending on my mood.

As I said, no film stood out to me as a game-changer this year. Unlike in our next category…

 

Best TV of the Year

We truly live in a golden age of television. There were so many shows that captived me throughout the year. Before listing my favourite, here are some of the others that I loved in 2019:

The Umbrella Academy

The Dark Crystal

His Dark Materials

Killing Eve (which is NOT my genre, but the writing and two leads are stellar)

The Boys

Sex Education

Derry Girls (only discovered it this year, so we got to binge both seasons)

The Witcher

 

But, the show that blew my mind, and at one point (during Episode 6), prompted my wife to tell me to shut up because I would not stop saying how amazed I was at the show, was:

Watchmen

Controversial choice, I know – I began watching uneasily, aware of how Watchmen creator Alan Moore disapproves of pretty much every iteration of his creation now. However, I can’t deny that Watchmen had me captivated throughout its run. This is a great example of ‘mystery box’ storytelling done right, with the writers leaving just enough plot breadcrumbs to keep me satisfied, but still wanting to find out more. The storytelling was dense, and perfectly woven, not just throughout all the season’s episodes, but also (somehow) with Moore’s own comics written back in the 1980s. The acting was first class, it was funny, baffling, and terrifying. I loved it.

 

Best Computer Game of the Year

I didn’t play many in 2019 (something I aim to fix in 2020), but little came close to the experience offered to me by Untitled Goose Game on the Nintendo Switch. Puzzle solving? Check. Charm? Check. Asshole goose simulator? Check. Much fun was had.

 

Best Game of the Year

You might know by now that I love board games. I could write a list as long as my TV show list for this category, but thankfully two titles stood taller than the rest for me in 2019.

Taking the runner-up slot is Root – a game of woodland warfare, with charm and depth of play. The only reason it doesn’t claim first spot is that it can be confusing at first, making it difficult to introduce to new players, and you can’t actually buy it at the moment, and I didn’t want to be the guy to recommend an unobtainable game!

Therefore, my game of 2019 has to be Risk Legacy. You may not have discovered Legacy board games yet. The basic idea is that the game starts off (more or less) as a regular Risk game, but after the first play through, changes are made. Perhaps the winner gets to place a city on the game map. Or they get to rename an entire continent as a prize. The different factions you play with start to accrue new powers, or flaws. Oddities that I won’t spoil here start to become uncovered, changing major aspects of the game. Right now, after a year of playing Risk Legacy, the game my group sits down to play looks and plays nothing like regular Risk, and also looks and plays nothing like any other version of Risk Legacy out there – these are changes the players have made to the game throughout the year, and your group might make very different choices.

Hopefully we’ll finish the main campaign in 2020, because the ultimate winner gets to name the entire world, and y’all know what my plans are for it…

 

Phew!

I think I knew this was going to be a big one, so congrats if you made it this far!

As mentioned above, next time I’ll be in touch, we’ll be looking to the future, at what’s in store for 2020. There might be one or two big surprises to announce…