2018 – A Writing Year in Review

… or that’s 365 days we won’t get back…

“Ding dong merrily on high…” No, sorry, that was last month. So, 2019. Has it been good to you so far? Have you broken all of your New Year’s resolutions yet? I know that I have and in record time too.

Anyway, with 2018 now well out of sight, I thought it would be a good idea to take a brief glimpse back at the hectic journey we made around the sun last year and review some of the many high’s and low’s that occurred along the way.

January began with the soft launch of my website (www.rob-gregory.com) and the publication of my very first blog post. A that time, I really had no idea what I was doing and to be honest, I think that it shows, but still everyone has to start somewhere and as I reflected in a blog some months later: “The journey of a thousand steps begins with a steep climb.” Back then, excitement and optimism lay heavy in the air and with Drynwideon, my first novel at the printers and the final instalment of the DATS Trilogy completed, I had the pleasure to round off the month by meeting Robbie from England, who has become a firm friend in the months since.

Blogety blog - Les Dawson, Blankety Blank. Rob Gregory Author

Blogety Blog. My very first blog post… ahhh.

In February, I gave the world ‘Halfaholic’, only to subsequently discover that I’d been pipped to the post by an American rap group and a fetish clothing company. Still, you can’t win them all. Back then, I was doing two blog posts a week, something which later proved to be unsustainable, but it was a great start to the year and did a lot to offset the debacle which occurred when we found out that the boxes we were planning to ship Drynwideon in were slightly too small for the book itself. The best-laid plans of mice and men, indeed! On reflection, that one incident was probably the beginning of the year’s many challenges and an interesting introduction to the realities of trying to run your own self-publishing operation.

Drynwideon The sword of destiny – Yeah, Right R.A. Gregory | Rob Gregory Author

Drynwideon in all its glory.

March, ah March… Such a lot happened in such a short period of time. We launched Drynwideon on the 1st to resounding and spectacular silence from the literary world, despite having sent out press releases, sample chapters and synopses to around 200 media outlets worldwide. Despite this initial lack of enthusiasm, spirits remained high, if a little cold, predominantly because I was in the UK at the time. Originally, I was supposed to visit in January, but cried off because of the risk of bad weather. Alas, nature was not prepared to allow her crafty quarry to escape unharmed and sent ‘The Beast from the East’ to coincide with my visit, leaving me in the grip of snow and sub-zero temperatures for most of my visit. Not being one to lay idle for too long, I used the time to start work on my second novel, Yogol’s Gold, and polished off a short story, The Perfect Chord, before returning to warmer climes.

April was perhaps most succinctly summed up as ‘The Silence of the Books’. Not only did the world’s media diligently continue to ignore the existence of Drynwideon, work on Yogol’s Gold slowed to a trickle as the agony that is writer’s block hit me for the first time in decades. On the plus side, we did have the Songkran celebration in Thailand that month and were graced by another welcome appearance from Robbie, so it wasn’t all bad. And I suppose that looking back on it, I did manage to maintain my ‘two blogs a week’ standard, delve into the world of Fake News and discover a reference to Hogwarts in a book published over forty years earlier.

How to be Topp - A new author speaks out - Hogwarts

‘The Hogwarts’ in ‘How to be Topp’.

Unlike April, May turned out to be a really busy and in many ways, rewarding month, although it did prove to be the beginning of the end for the ‘two blogs a week’ thing. Goy Kankanakul, the artist who did the cover for Drynwideon, had her first major exhibition since graduating and I tagged along both for moral support and to get myself into as many photo opportunities as possible… I managed two. I also sold a couple of books during the exhibition and met the editor of one of the local newspapers, who had received a free review copy and who promised me an article in a forthcoming edition of his rag. Later in the year, I found out that the cheeky sod had absconded to another publication without doing anything at all to help me. Another harsh lesson to learn about the realities of being an author, although I do still hope that he enjoyed Drynwideon and has told a few mates about it.

My first book signing -Rob Gregory Author, Goy Kankanakul and friends

Surrounded by Goy’s wonderful artwork at Icon Amazed.

June, June, June. Now that was one hell of a month. By that time, work on the first draft of Yogol’s Gold was almost finished and I was looking forward to publishing it before the end of the year. And then, on my wife’s birthday, we found out that a good friend of ours had suddenly died. With no close family nearby, it fell to us to deal with the death, which involved police interviews and working with Embassy staff to tidy up his affairs. It was not only a very sad time, but very stressful as well and needless to say, writing took a bit of a back seat, although I still did manage to venture into space, as well as get (another) dog before the month was out.

July saw me finish the first draft of Yogol’s Gold (hooray) and the beginning of the editing process, which ended up taking the rest of the year (boo). It also saw my debut appearance on the Reddit Fantasy Forum, which was a blast and gave me the chance to connect with many great fantasy fans from around the world. Unfortunately, I’ve not been as active on that particular forum as I would have liked, but I did manage to write a short story excerpt for their ‘Wednesday Writer’s Challenge’, which was fun.

In August, I made the surprisingly difficult decision to try and find a literary agent in 2019, to help me pursue a career in traditional publishing. This was motivated by a number of factors including: the disappointing online and media response to Drynwideon, despite very positive feedback from those that had actually read the book; the growing realisation that it is almost impossible to get visibility in today’s ridiculously congested self-publishing sphere, unless you are already famous or a master marketer, which I am not; and the fact that I was spending more time managing my social media accounts than I was on actual writing! Wish me luck, because I’m almost certain that I’ll need it. On a more positive note, August did see the first draft of the cover art for The Lucius Chronicles pop into existence, along with me doing a good deed by helping out a young lady locate a lost book from her childhood.

Draft cover for The Lucius Chronicles - Rob Gregory Author

Coming soon… I promise!

September was another strange month in many ways. Yogol’s Gold took a bit of a back seat, as I focused on getting the artwork sorted out for The Lucius Chronicles. I have to thank James Stevens and Eugene Georgiades once again for the fine work that they did on the cover artwork and line illustrations respectively and apologise to everyone for not releasing the book yet. It will come out as soon as I finish editing Yogol’s Gold, I promise. In between all of the emails back and forth, I finished off a second short story, entitled: It’s a Shame About Eric and gave the world the first Tales of the Beast blog before getting philosophical and questioning ageing and microchip design after buying a new smartphone. Then, right at the end of the month, I had the unexpected pleasure of discovering that if you typed ‘Rob Gregory’ into Google, my website came up as the number one hit. Yay!

Lucius Chronicles - Uncle Fergus goes into battle. Rob Gregory Author

One of my favourite drawings for The Lucius Chronicles, done by Eugene Georgiades.

October… Even though it was only three months ago, I’m struggling to remember what happened or why it was so frustrating. I seem to recall that my son was on holiday from school, which meant that very little writing took place. I also have a vague recollection about decorating the bedrooms, which took up quite a lot of time. Regardless, for whatever reason, I only managed two blogs in the entire month and very little editing. Probably best just to leave it there and move on to better things.

In November, I introduced you to the man-mountain that is Fotherington-Tomas, which has turned out to be a very rewarding and enjoyable endeavour, for me at least. I hope you’ll be pleased to know that there are many more stories in the pipeline and assuming that I can manage it then his adventures will become a regular feature of my blog in the coming year. I also received a very encouraging email from Reading University, where I studied in the early 1990s, concerning one of my blogs, as well as one from Locus Magazine, concerning a possible review of Drynwideon. Obviously, things in the publishing world take time, but like all good things, they come to those who wait… hopefully.

Thatched Cottage, Castle Combe, UK. Home of Fotherington-Tomas? Rob Gregory Author

Fotherington-Tomas. A future classic?

Finally, we hit December, which saw a Christmassy Fotherington-Thomas save the Queen at Hamleys, which was very appropriate and two car-themed blogs, plus a tongue-in-cheek rant about Buddhism, which were not. Incidentally, the Fotherington-Tomas blog racked up over 350 hits, which wasn’t bad seeing as the website hadn’t even been up for a full year. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit my target of completing the Yogol’s Gold edit before Christmas, but then as someone more famous than I probably once said: “The best things take time,” so there you go.

And there you have it. A year full of words. Some of them good. Some of them bad. Some of them, unfortunately, needing more work, but then that’s life I suppose. A year of ups and downs, back and forth and swinging from the rafters in happiness and despair. A year that saw the creation of a website and blogs that never existed before and the beginning of what I hope will become a more popular platform in the year ahead.

So, thank you, dear followers, especially those who have been with me since the very beginning and I hope that you enjoy what follows in 2019… to quote Bachman-Turner Overdrive: “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!”