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Friday, December 31, 2021

The Year of Izanami

Happy New Year! May the things we all wished for 2021 actually happen in 2022.

If you landed on this page deliberately, it may because you’re wondering how progress is coming on the new book. Hard as it is to believe now, there was actually a time when I thought it might be possible to have the sequel to The Curse of Septimus Bridge out by the end of 2021. This was because the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and enforced isolation in 2020 ended up making me so productive that my last book, Searching for Cunégonde, was done sooner than I could ever have expected.

As the pandemic refused to go away, I thought perhaps that level of productivity would continue. It didn’t. Despite new variants and subsequent waves of virus, life has insisted—in fits and starts—on returning to some kind of normal. I have simply been distracted and occupied with other things that I had previously gotten away with ignoring or postponing. I suppose that’s a good thing, though not necessarily for the book-writing assembly line.

Actually, I’ve just crunched the numbers and have spotted an interesting coincidence. On New Year’s Day (i.e. tomorrow, as I write this), exactly the same number of days (459) will have passed since Searching for Cunégonde was published as passed between the publication of that book and the publication of the previous one, The Curse of Septimus Bridge. That is indeed a record for the briefest interval between any two of my books—66 weeks.

For the sake of comparison, 105 weeks passed between the appearance of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and that of The Three Towers of Afranor. There was an interval of 68 weeks between Three Towers and Lautaro’s Spear. A full 91 weeks passed between Lautaro and Septimus Bridge. That means my average gap between books is 83 weeks or, more precisely, 577 days. So I guess I’m not doing too badly with this latest book—at least so far.

As I told you in September, I took my customary break after reaching the end of the first draft. As it turned out, that break has gone on a bit longer than anticipated. A couple of weeks after that last blog post, during a routine eye exam I was informed by a very competent and concerned optician that the retina in my left eye was detaching. Immediate surgery was advised, and there was a bit of a challenge finding a surgeon and hospital to take me on short notice during the pandemic, but fortunately everything turned out fine. It did mean, however, that I have not returned to my manuscript since. Once we got into the extended holiday season, I knew there was no point trying to carve out time.

I will get back to it sometime after the official end of the Christmas period. In Ireland that’s January 6, which is the Feast of the Epiphany on the Catholic calendar, also known as “Little Christmas” or Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas). When I lived in the States, by that date Christmas was but a distant memory. Not so here.

This extended break from novel writing actually has me rather excited. My goal—or hope—is always to come back to the second round with fresh eyes, and this time my eyes will be fresher (in so many ways) than they’ve ever been for a second pass. Will it actually be like reading the words for the first time? No, not exactly. I’m not exactly an amnesiac—at least not yet—but it will be the closest I can come to that experience without locking away the files for several years. Will I read them and surprise myself at how good it is? Or, probably more likely, will I be gobsmacked at how I thought any of it was any good the first time around?

Not least of the strangeness of the experience will be the concurrent passage of time out there in the real world. Every so often during the past several weeks, I have been jolted by a geographical name in the news. The adventures of Izanami and her comrades take them to several far-flung places around the globe, some of them quite obscure. And yet a couple of those places have found their way into news reports for completely unforeseeable reasons. Readers will surely suspect that I slipped them in as part of an effort to seem timely when the truth is that I chose them in large part for their exoticness and relative obscurity. Similarly, given the apocalyptic nature of the storyline, I suspect that some will think they discern some sort of allegory about current world events.

I assure you that is absolutely not the case. Or is it? It’s not. At least I don’t think so.