One of my actual bookshelves featuring no books I bought or read this year
My year in books encompasses both books written and books read.
I can take the first category quickly. As ever, time is shorter on the writing front than I would like. This year I wrote and published a full length novel, wrote and self-published a novella, revised and re-released a short story for an anthology, co-wrote the first part of a new story with my CP, Carolyn Crane, and (mostly) planned out my next book. Not bad. Not as productive as I’d like, but considering work and family commitments, not bad. Part of the challenge for me is to try to keep my focus on what I can reasonably achieve, rather than on what other people are doing and comparing myself unfavourably to them in terms of output. I don’t find that easy so that’s going to be an ongoing challenge in 2016. I’ll blog separately, perhaps soon, about the queer joy of co-writing.
So far as reading is concerned, I’ve been conscious that I’ve read less – and probably with less excitement – this year than for the last few years. Even so, I was surprised when I checked to find that I’ve bought less than half as many books in 2015 (c.80) than I did in 2014 (c.170). In 2014, I read a lot of books I liked. This year, as I scrolled through my kindle, I reflected that there seemed to have been nowhere near as many, a fact that made me wonder, a little anxiously, whether romance is losing some of its appeal for me.
That would once have been unthinkable to me but not so now. Also, though, it’s not the whole story. Not when I realised I was forgetting something important: 2015 was the year of the audiobook for me. I’ve bought and consumed 30 titles/200 hours of audiobooks this year (almost all of which I’ve previously read). A huge highlight of that process has been working through Josh Lanyon’s audiobooks, both revisiting old pleasures and finding new things to love in them. They really are all good, but my particular recommendations would be Come Unto These Yellow Sands, The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks and a superb value collection of shorts stories, In Sunshine and in Shadow. Right now – today – I’m listening to, and painfully loving Lovers and Other Strangers. So, so good. Other audio favourites have included Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycop series, Mary Calmest’ Frog and Eli Easton’s The Mating of Michael.
I’ve been fascinated by the experience of audio *reading*. It’s a curious thing. In a normal reading experience, the only filter between author and reader is the reader’s mind. With an audio experience, you get another layer, the narrator. That voice in the dark brings a lot to the table: tone, inflection…judgment. You find that the tiniest things change meaning. Sway you. Curious to reflect that the Victor Bayne of my reader’s mind is somehow sadder than the man Gomez Pugh gives voice to. Pugh’s Vic is not the Vic I first met, in my head. He is another Vic. A wonderful Vic, to be sure – Gomez Pugh is an incredible narrator – yet he’s subtly different from my original Vic. You get another dimension, another, different experience.
My audio consumption will be likely diminish in 2016. I’ve discovered I need my audiobooks to be high quality reads. The pace of reading aloud is slow – listening to a book takes 3-4 times longer than reading it – and there’s no place for an author to hide at that speed. In my view, it’s only a medium for books you can savour every word of.
There have been some outstanding regular reads this year too. When I finally got round to reading them, I loved Keira Andrews’ Amish trilogy, starting with A Forbidden Rumspringa. I’ll be checking out some of her backlist in 2016. Other new-to-me authors I’ve enjoyed this year include Leta Blake, Megan Erikson and Sarina Bowen. The final book in S P Wayne’s werewolf series, Everything Carries Me to You was a bit of brilliance. Alexis Hall’s For Real was fantastic, and did something I felt like I’ve been waiting for for a long time – brought BDSM plausibly into the real world for me. A massive reading treat of 2015 was glomming Mary Calmes’ Matter of Time series (Sam! Jory!) albeit it left with me something of a book hangover. More recently, I loved Santino Hassell’s Sunset Park -Raymond is one of those rare characters you Actually Fall In Love With – Josh London’s gorgeous A Case of Christmas, and LB Gregg’s With This Bing, a pacey romp with characters I love. LB does great older guys. Dan – I mean, just, uhnnn. (sorry, but Dan!).
I also have to give a shout out to Lisa Henry (aka Discontented Winter) for her amazing fanfic – some of her stories transfixed me this year. Gorgeous, emotional writing…and free. So good, it doesn’t seem right to not be paying for it. There’s something here about the sheer joy of storytelling, untrammeled by writing to market/promo/performance anxiety etc. Something to ponder for 2016. I also need to read the sequel to Dark Space which I only just realised is out. Incredible book. That’s one I’ll pay for at least.
There’s undoubtedly a pile of books I’ve forgotten to mention that I ought to have, but this is only an impressionistic glance at my booklife in 2015. I’ve spent too long on this post already. Why look back when I could be slipping in my earbuds, sinking into the final chapter of Lovers and Other Strangers? I’m sorry , reading friends, to be lax with my praise, and uncomprehensive. But the need to read is calling me, so I must away.