I hope you all had a great Christmas/Yule/mid-winter celebration. I was ill for all of December until the day before Christmas Eve. I struggled on, as you do, trying to get everything ready for the holiday. We always have lots of family here, the "children" all staying and other people coming and going, and there's a great deal of preparation to be done. I tried to juggle this around the book signings and keeping up with everything, but the virus got worse as the month went on, and the last time I ventured outside at all was on this gorgeous walk in the woods with Drax.
By the time we got home, I felt so ill and took to my bed. Mr B looked after me for days, and for the first time in memory, I couldn't even make it outside for the Winter Solstice. I was so disappointed as the sunrise was wonderful and Mr B took some beautiful photos.
But luckily the virus decided to let me go just in time for the festivities. We had a really lovely Yule after all, and I enjoyed it far more than the previous year when we'd only recently moved here and everything was so upside down and hectic.
Drax was much better behaved than I'd hoped for, and our beautiful Christmas Tree has survived well. I must un-decorate it but can't bear to yet as it still looks lovely. There was a slight issue over the tree this year, as I much prefer the old-fashioned Norway Spruce type (which may drop needles, but smells how it should) over the Nordman. I think I've blogged about this before. Mr B took pity on my over-emotional response to the original specimen he'd brought home, and we ended up with this beauty. And even some new lights, as both the old sets decided to give up the ghost. These ones are far more eco-friendly, so all guilt was set aside at the extravagance of buying new lights at such a time!
We enjoyed our fifth wedding anniversary on 29th and New Year's Eve was lovely. We stayed in, celebrating quietly with some delicious champagne. I must be getting old but I really do prefer this to going out. I look back to so many other New Year's Eves - wild times as a youngster, so many occasions when I was a single mum with small children and couldn't afford to go out anywhere, others when they were older and I could, and Mr B's and my early celebrations when we partied, including a very memorable one in Venice, and of course the one we spent en route to the Maldives for our honeymoon! I'm really happy to spend a romantic and companionable evening in - and after all the busyness over Christmas with so many people coming and going, it's really good to be alone again. Or as alone as Drax will allow!
On New Year's Day, the weather had finally cleared up and we drove to the Ridgeway for a decent walk, imagining it would be drier up on the chalk hills. Every day for weeks we've been dealing with a very wet and muddy Drax and wondering why we decided on a dog with such a coat! We live right by fields and woodland but at present, they're a quagmire and Drax returns from his walk each morning with half a ton of mud attached.
The Ridgeway was beautiful, and perfect for such a day. As we walked we reflected on the year that's passed and all that's been achieved. This time last year I was in a flat panic about my deadline for the final book in the Stonewylde series. Due to our house move, the original deadline (Christmas) had been and gone and I hadn't even STARTED it! Not even thought of a title! I was really, really scared that I wouldn't be able to do it. It's one thing writing the next book but quite another to actually finish the series and tie up all the loose ends. I was terrified of disappointing my readers and terrified of not being able to actually write at all.
It seemed very odd, therefore, to be striding along only a year later with the book (all 548 pages of it) not only written but out there in the shops and in people's hands! Gollancz/Orion really did me proud, getting it out there so rapidly in order to honour the original publication date we'd announced. I don't wish to sound smug, of course, but I am pleased with it and feedback from readers has been very positive, so I think the final instalment did justice to Stonewylde.
And now ... what next? There are so many projects I want to embark upon. I've made a little start (preliminary notes and jottings, lots of reading and some research) on three of them, in the spirit of seeing which one grabs hold and won't let me go. On our lovely Ridgeway walk we came across this signpost, and it made me laugh. So appropriate - three different directions, and not knowing which one to follow.
Happy new year, everyone! I hope it's a great one for us all. I'm so excited at the prospect of a bright and shiny start, and I have absolutely no idea what I'll have written by this time next year. Fingers crossed you'll all like it, whatever it may be.