At the beginning of the year I set myself two targets:

  1. Write 3,000 words a week for 48 weeks of the year.  (A total of 144,000 words.)
  2. Finish the first draft of ‘the Shopping Trip’
That was the ambition.  Did I succeed?  No. 

These are my stats:
-         Words written: 97, 391
-         Average words/week : 2,209  (for 48 weeks)
-         % target:  67.6%
-         Weeks over 3,000 words:12
-         Weeks with 0 words: 9
-         Least words in a week: 97
-         Most words in a week: 5,499
-         Draft finished?:  No

So I didn’t do it, not even very close, but I’m not too disappointed.  All things I considered I think I did pretty well in what turned out to be an unexpectedly tough year.  I nearly made 100,000 words.

From January to mid September I was looking after my increasingly frail father and running his home.  From that point there was his funeral to organise and his affairs to wind up.  Yes, I had my sister to help, and she was fantastic, but she was living in Australia until November, and also coping with the accidental death of her husband at the beginning of the year and her emigration back to England.  Some weeks it really wasn’t very easy.

In writing terms I have some good things to look forwards to.  The first draft of The Shopping Trip will be complete very soon, (new target end of January).  I am excited about this book and can’t wait to get it test read, final drafted and submitted.  I have one agent who said he wants to see it, and an editor who may well want to.

There is also the launch of PS Publishing’s Catastrophia anthology  at Fantasycon  on 18th September.  This includes a short story of mine, is a great sale and my first ever launch.

Elsewhere in writing Million Monkeys goes from strength to strength.  My writing group, the T Party now has at least half a dozen writers with agents, authors with books just, or soon to be, published and others being regularly published and talked about.  My own feeling is that for the group 2010 could be a nice year.  In the family my daughter has written, and started submitting her first novel and started on her second, and one of my sons has good ideas for a non-fiction book of his own.  Good stuff all round.

Personally, if the door slams on the arse of 2009 on its way out I shall cheer.  Here’s looking forwards to 2010.  I certainly am.  Peace on Earth.  Have a good one, everybody.
James Cameron’s latest film is a marvellous visual adventure, by turns awe inspiring, joyful, exciting, heart-wrenching, and ultimately leaving you with that wonderful feeling so often strived for so seldom achieved: true sensawunda.

Visually it is a complete triumph, a beautiful dream that contains the implausible and nightmarish elements of any dream, truly extravagant and wonderful rendering of an imaginary forest world.  This botanist was very satisfied and took great delight in the superb attention to detail in the creation of this fantastic place, animals, plants and geography.

Yes, there are flaws, the plot is light, the key turning points and encounters are by and large predictable.  Jake, (Sam Worthington) the main character and main avatar of the film is not very convincing as a marine, his moral revolution is not an apocalyptic personal epiphany and feels more like the moment he has been waiting to arrive all through the film.  The bad guys are bad, the good guys are enlightened, wise and happy to kick your arse if you act like a moron.  Tough love.

Does this detract from the film?  Hardly.  You know what you are going to get in this sort of film and it makes all the right gestures in all the right places.  It’s more than enough to keep you in the moment, and even satisfying when these archetypes conform to expectations in their drives, their loves and hates, their greed and fears.

Cameron doesn’t pull his punches either. Beauty is destroyed in painful and ugly ways.  It’s not a bloody film but there is horror and a lust in battle when it comes.  Many characters developed during the film do not make it to the end, which is all the more bittersweet for that.

In a recent edition of the Culture Show, Mark Kermode made the point that 3D was best suited to the low-brow hacker/slash end of the movie spectrum – genres he said he himself loved.  His point being that 3D does not add significantly to the cinematic toolkit in the way that colour did, for example.  After seeing Avatar I’m not so sure.  There are some clever tricks, mostly subtle ones, the 3D is seldom to the fore, but boy does it add to the immersive experience of this film.  For the future, I’ll wait and see.  For this particular film it works beautifully because Cameron uses it as a tool, not a gimmick.

I went to see this with my son.  ‘Pesky humans,’ he said as we came out of the cinema into the monochrome light of a winter evening.  He knew which side he was on, and so did I.

I had high hopes of the Copenhagen summit on climate change.  It seems those hopes were forlorn.  Roger Harrabin's report for the BBC is critical and disheartening. 
I'm not a political animal, I think party politics and ideologies, national egos and the such are morally repllent and intelectually irrational.  Once again the politicians have let us down, but now I'm thinking less in terms of being simply let down in the usual round of optimism and broken promises.  Now I'm thinking of being betrayed.  Our hopes and powers were in the hands of these people and collectively they have betrayed that trust.
Underneath it all seems to be a complete failure to understand the scope of this coming crisis, its depth and its breadth, and the need for collective, global, fundamental change right now, this very minute, absolutely right now before it is too late.
And they didn't.
The fuckers.
So OK, what am I doing?  Well, maybe like everyone I'm doing a bit, I'm personally trying to do what I can but I know I could do more, and I'm thinking how.
Maybe that's how it's going to play.  Perhaps that is the real message of the RATM Christmas #1.  We don't have to listen to the Man, we can do it for ourselves.  At the moment it feels like we're going to have to.
The question is - how?
I'm starting to wonder if 2010 will be the 'Year of the E-Book' especially as it seems that Apple is near to launching its own dedicated product, alongside increasing grumbles about Amazon's attempts at exclusivity and pricing.

Whatever happens, something is going to happen soon, for good or bad publishing is going to go down a parallel path to the one the music industry took a while back.  Hopefully it will be a good thing, and - even more hopefully- maybe it will break the apparent strangle hold Marketting and Sales seem to have on fiction publishing.

Meanwhile here's an interesting commentary on publishing...
I was very sad to hear the lovely and talented Robert Holdstock died  on 29th November from an E.Coli infection.
Mythago Wood introduced me to Robert's writing, and the worlds he created.  There are very few books that you can divide your life inot the time before your read it and the time after. For me Mythago Wood was one of them.  It is one of the defining English fantasy novels of the modern era, telling a tale rooted in both myth and the modern world, spanning and linking both in ways that feel not only believeable, but almost ache to leave the page and become real.
It's a story I've read several times, and will read again, along with the equally inspired sequels, Lavondyss, The Bone Forest, and more.  Great fantasy creates worlds you wish you could be part of.  Somehow Robert's writing made you feel the same about -this- world, if only you could just see things the right way.
Farewell, Robert, you were an inspiration and a creator of wonders for this reader, and for many, many others.