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“That’s right, Lloyd, I’ve been away but now I’m back.”

And how were all our Januaries this year, anyway?  Does anyone else observe a little tradition of startled angst as the end of the month passes them, muttering “oh, shit, the year’s one-twelfth over and I’ve done NOTHING!” to themselves?

Actually, weirdly, now I come to have typed it, it occurs to me that this is the first year in a while that I haven’t done that.  Well, I did it, but slightly self-consciously and for the sake of a little performance, not from really meaning it.  I haven’t made a running leap into 2012, exactly, but I like to think I’ve accomplished a brisk and purposeful-looking saunter.

I even managed some pace at the end of last year, believe it or not, and you won’t, because the blog through December was a whistling void, without form or word count.  (And I even took notes all through the epic CRDL Roller Derby grand final, and never blogged it!  Sorry about that.)  I’d gone for a hard burn on the latest novel project (coming out later this year, details hopefully public later this  month), powering through a hundred thousand words and change in… well, way shorter a time than I usually take, which is because it was probably the most enjoyable novel-writing I’ve ever done.  I’m trying to be more conscientious about taking breaks to rest my hands and eyes, and I have never, ever before found myself thinking “aw, man, three more minutes of break?  I wanna get back into that scene…”  I just hope it has the same effect on your collective selves when you read it.  That done I kicked down a gear to do some editing and revision and lots of lovely, lovely reading, zooming through books by Glenda Larke and Joyce Chng.  And then, good grief, it was Christmas.  A house packed to the gills with D’s relatives, a mound of presents and a short sharp hailstorm while we all ate Christmas Eve lunch out on the veranda.

The new year was a trains, planes and automobiles sort of affair.  D and I rode the train up to Sydney on the thirtieth, flew across to New Zealand on New Year’s Eve and sat a deathbed vigil for 2011 on the floor by the hotel room’s window-wall, watching the fireworks explode around Auckland’s central tower.  After that cue a few days of motoring about the North Island: Coromandel Peninsula (gorgeous scenery and a twisty road make for nerve-wracking driving: oh, that’s beautifAGHWATCHTHEROAD oh, that’s beautifAGHWATCHTHEROAD) and then to Matamata to visit the Hobbiton set and on to Rotorua.  What a surreal place: the steam plumes drifting up from the undergrowth and the stink of brimstone percolating through the whole town, enormous pools of water at a gently fizzing boil like freshly-poured champagne, and little waterfalls steaming as if they had just been poured from a kettle.

Also, a traditional Maori village, and hangi.  Oh, wow, hangi.  Don’t go through life without having eaten hangi.

The rest of the visit was mainly for this year’s FWOR retreat, held at Kerikeri toward the north end of the island.  Two weeks at the Nine Muses homestead, newly acquired by FWOR members Russell and Kylie and soon to be in business as a professional writers’ retreat and artists’ colony.  It was the perfect venue to lose track of two weeks in: a big, luxurious house in a pocked of landscaped parkland, including a rainforest gully, seventeen-metre waterfall and swimming hole.  And a whole separate studio in its own meadow, which I colonised for my own.

By the first week of the thing I had a new novel pitch finished and away, and had broken the first ground on the new manuscript, a fantasy project that will have another thousand words or two added to it when I finish this blog post and go home.

Here’s where I’m writing this, by the way. Somewhere across the Pacific, John Scalzi has felt derisive for a moment and doesn’t know why.

This feels a bit odd, to be honest.  It’s the first thing in quite a while that I’ve started purely on spec, with no pitch, contract and deadline, just the trust that I’ll find a publisher who likes it once it’s done.  That change in approach has been enough to stall me once or twice before now, I admit, but I’m feeling nice and upbeat about this one.  So far.  Let’s see how we go.

Two Black Library projects on the go, too, both Warhammer 40K, neither of them novel-length, both with their challenges.  One’s in with the editors at the moment, and the other is actually the other file open on my laptop at the moment, which I was working on before the delicious and entirely carbohydratastic rosemary/sea-salt bread arrived.

And… well, okay.  There’s a stack of stuff from the last couple of months to talk about, really, some of which I’ll have to leave for a bit and some of which I can go into now, except that even as a quick recap this is really turning into something rather vague and rambly and trying to cover everything at once will only make it worse.  There will be more posts to tackle it all in.  Better that way.

In the meantime, if anyone’s left out there, how about your year?