A year ago today I moved house, leaving Pontypridd in Wales and heading to Barnstaple, in England. There were a number of reasons, not least that I was healthy again after my back operation - the first time I'd been OK for four years. I also wanted to find work, and thought I had no chance in Ponty. It's not exactly a hot bed for jobs.
So here I am, and the calendar pages have turned the way they always do. Things haven't turned out quite as I'd hoped they might, in some ways. I'm working as a volunteer for Cancer Research UK, but I don't have a paid job yet; and I had a relapse of my back injury last autumn that landed me in physiotherapy for two months. Still, I am working, and at least my time at CRUK shows employers that I'm capable and reliable again (well, as much as I ever was, anyway).
But my writing has begun to progress. I've published three novels since I moved, the Songs of Sorrow duology and now also TROY: A Brand of Fire, which opens a trilogy. Sales have been slow, to be honest, but the reviews have been very good indeed, much better than I'd even hoped for. Now I've made a few contacts in this new town, other things are now starting to happen as well. I'll be hosting a semi-formal meet-and-greet at Barnstaple Library on May 2nd, which will be covered by the local paper and at which I'll hopefully sell a few copies, and hand out some publicity cards. I'm also due to meet the manager of the local Waterstone's store, with a view to my books being sold there under a "Local Author" initiative. (Yes, my books would be in a proper bookshop!) I'll be speaking to people at other libraries too, and at Appledore Book Festival, to spread this effort a little wider if I can.
And when you enter Ben Blake Author into Google, there's a raft of references to me in the first page, from Amazon and Smashwords to Facebook. That feels a little bit eerie in truth, as though the bloke on the search engines isn't the same as me - he might look the same, and talk the way I do, but gosh-darn it he's an imposter! That's not me. I'm just minding my beeswax while I write out another chapter of my latest - oh, yeah. Now it makes sense.
It's a funny thing. Social media takes a lot of my time now, and publicity is shaping up to take a chunk more. It can be vexing sometimes but it's also necessary, and I meet fun people and we all have a chuckle, so it's not so bad... and yet I still sometimes nearly shriek with frustration because I'm updating a profile or tinkering with my website when I want to be writing. But of course the writing is still there, it still takes more time than the rest even if it doesn't always feel that way, and writing is the beating heart of everything I'm trying to do. Of everything I want to do, and what I want to be.
Do I want to be rich? Famous, like the reality TV bone-heads who cram the airwaves? No, I want to write. Give me that and I stay sane. Give me that and my health, which is what I now have.... and Barnstaple is right where I want to be.