How fast the time flies! My annual oath, boast and toast has come around already.
Once again it's been insanely busy. Top highlights have included:
- My writing: This time last year I had just signed Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran with Ghostwoods Books. Best decision ever! Had an absolute blast working with them, and Rosy Hours launched on Valentine's Day 2015, debuting at #6 in Historical Fantasy on Amazon. It was also turned into an audiobook, narrated by Hugo-nominated Sci-fi and Fantasy author Emma Newman (check out her podcast and books). I've since given talks about it in Northampton, Kendal and Malawi (via Skype!). I've done a ton of online interviews including Chuck Wendig's terribleminds and Riffle Books. Rosy Hours was even turned into a healthy snack, a charm bracelet and a cute cartoon. Best of all, I managed to fulfil my oath last year of completing my next novel (The Children of Lir) and garnered my first ever book advance! 2015 has been a fantastic year for writing. I'm hoping this will continue in 2016.
- Another utterly incredible part of 2015 was my first ever trip to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). As a VSO many years back we were forbidden from going there for safety reasons. It still isn't that safe, but it's somewhere I've long been fascinated by, and it was a trip to remember. We went to a remote school, a refugee camp, and hung out in Goma.
- My friend Jo and I decided to have a go at walking part of the Congo Nile River Trail, which is a long road leading from Gisenyi in the North of Rwanda, right down to Cyangugu in the South, along the watershed of the two mighty rivers: Congo and Nile. It was hard going in parts, but an amazing experience. The furthest source of the Nile is said to be in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda.
- Thanks to many wonderful friends and family, I managed to raise the money to help rebuild my housekeeper's home after it was washed away in an unexpected deluge. I attended a 'thank you' dinner with Damascene's family in Muhanga, on behalf of everyone who donated.
- I took up the country program directorship of a human rights organisation. That was fairly incredible. It provided an opportunity to travel to parts of the country I would never normally see, and discuss issues with people I would never normally meet. We went to two more refugee camps (Kiziba and Gihembe), a Batwa village, Nyange Memorial School, Nyamata and Kigali genocide memorials, MindLeaps, Ineza Cooperative, Rwanda Development Board, the Ministry of Health and the US Embassy. Rwanda also did something special on the human rights front. Got to see old colleagues from the Deaf Association and Paralympic Committee, as well as friends from the LGBT community who came to talk. Made some fabulous new friends and received the compliment "thanks for being a great boss."
- Hosted French John for a few weeks. A photographer on a round-the-world mission.
- Returned to the UK to catch up with family and cream teas. Spent a month up in Scotland with my friend Paul, exploring standing stones and founding a charity. Had a fabulous Christmas with all the trimmings.
- Oh, and survived my first bout of malaria.
So, on that lengthy recap, drum roll please...
This has been so hard. I've thought about it right up to the final hour. Usually what I want to do is so clearly in front of me, but this year I'm a little hazy. I honestly have no idea what 2016 will bring. Originally I was going to say 'quit development and throw everything I have into forging a career from writing' - but at this precise moment in time, I'm not sure I have the courage to turn down guaranteed work. So, I guess, in some form of weaker words: 'Focus more energy on writing - try to build a career around what I love doing.' I'm not too sure if that's possible, but I'm sure I'll learn a lot trying.
2015 was so full-on, it's hard to pick just one thing to be proud of. Getting offered my book advance was the first thing that sprung to mind, but it's very closely followed by the program directorship and all the hard work and amazing experiences that entailed. It's been a year to be proud of all round.
To my amazing friend Christiane, who sadly passed away in September, far too soon. I will miss her very much, and the conversations we used to have sitting on my porch with a bottle of Gatanu.