interview · Pay It Forward · Review · Writing

Getting Behind ~ A Year in the Life

This is something that really bothers me. And I’m not talking about other people, only myself.

I’ve had review blogs, ordinary blogs and readers alike all promise to review my book. Then days, weeks, months and eventually years go by without so much as a glimmer of their promise coming true. So, I know how it feels when people don’t keep to their promises. That’s why, as a reader, writer and reviewer, I always want to fulfil every review promise I’ve made.

However, sometimes I don’t. At least, not on time or when I said I would.

Why is this?

A lot of factors. I don’t work, for a start. Not in a conventional 9-5 kind of job. My job is writing books. That’s right, I’m a full-time writer. Not because I can afford to be, because Lord knows it pays pittance for the first few years and beyond, but because I have medical issues that prevent me from working other jobs. Limitations. Disabilities. However you want to phrase it, I would be useless in other work. Writing works for me, because it’s written down. I can come back to it however many times I like, before publication, to change it, to set it aside for a year or two, to learn more things in between those writers block moments. I can pause, adapt or re-live things as many times as I like, without anyone noticing when I make a stupid mistake, when I can’t spell to save my life because I’m exhausted, without having to get “dressed” in the normal sense. I can wear what I want, feel however badly I feel, and no one will know but me and my laptop. I can take a snooze if I need to, get up to get a drink, take care of the dog and so much more, from the comfort of my own home. It’s not always easy, but I never expected it to be.

Other commitments get in the way too. I review for Divine Magazine, so they usually send me a completion date, either of when I need to post the release day review or when they need a copy of my review for a post. And, frankly, I love deadlines. Deadlines kick my ass into gear. But, there are some books that they offer that don’t have a date. Or a deadline. I have quite a few of them on my list, yet to be completed.

And, of course, let’s not forget that I write for a living. So I have editing deadlines, for books about to come out, deadlines for sending off my cover info to the artist, deadlines for getting my book to the editor, getting it back, getting it back to them a last time. Not to mention all the promo for at least a year before the release and the hectic time of the first few weeks after a release. And, if like this year, I have a lot of books coming out in quick succession (January, April, March, June, July, August) then that’s a non-stop merry-go-round of activity, involving copious editing, finding covers, organising ARC’s with reviewers, setting up Thunderclaps or Goodreads pages etc. It’s what we all have to do. Having two publishers, who publish different genres for me, means that my wires often get crossed, so the releases in April and August were for one publisher, while the others were for a different one.

How does this affect my review work? Well, basically…time. I run out of time or energy to get everything I want to get done, out of the way and sent off to the right people. So I work by deadline. Deadlines are my friend, because they push me to get things where they need to be, when they need to be there, no matter how crappy I feel or what else is going on in my life.

2016 has been quiet, medically. That’s not normal for me. But, I have had a total of 2 hospital appointments and only one complaint – an unexpectedly large weight gain in a short space of time. I’ll soon by seeing a dietician, so I don’t doubt that everything will change after that. I’ll be tired as I adapt to a new diet and probably cranky, restless. It won’t be much different to how I feel now, having to keep a food diary to show them at my first appointment. I know I live an unhealthy lifestyle, due to my limitations, but getting a ‘healthier’ one takes time.

On the home front, our dog has been really sick this year. He nearly crashed on the table, while being anaesthetised to get a suspicious lump biopsied. They wanted to remove it, but didn’t have time before they had to bring him round and he’s been a constant source of concern ever since. It didn’t help that we had to send him away for 6 weeks, to his second-mum, so that the building work could finally start on the conservatory that we’ve been waiting a year for.

Headaches abound from all the building work, doesn’t make for a good work environment, but I still powered through the best I could, while trying not to take out my feelings on the books I was reading.

Which brings me back to the start. Why don’t I complete non-deadline books in the (a few months/weeks) timeline that I’ve promised someone? Well, for a start, all the reasons above. But also, because I know how it feels to get a bad review. I never want to take out my personal frustrations on someone else’s work, just because I’m exhausted, grumpy and overworked, overtired and being battered on all sides by life and work. That’s not their problem and they shouldn’t have to sit and read a review that is anything but my honest opinion. Not something clouded by my personal issues.

So, if I can’t sit down and read a book in one go, I generally push it aside until later, if it doesn’t have a deadline. Why? Because you get the best “feel” for a book by reading it in one go. If it’s too long, too short, drags on or repeats things. If I take a break for a day or more in reading a book, I’ll forget those things. I might have noted them as I was reading, but by the time I come to write my review, I won’t understand “why” I noted that. And if I can’t understand the reason for it, or remember it, then how can I expect to properly articulate myself in a review, so that the author understands why I felt that way?

This is a big problem for long books. I mean, anything over 300 pages can’t be read in one day, without killing myself to get it done. If it’s a really good book, I won’t notice so much, but a bad book can make the day drag on. So I plan my time accordingly. I get the <200 books read on days where I can read the whole thing, write my review and still have time to get my own stuff done afterwards. Longer books need to be spread out, as much as I hate to do it, while I take copious, detailed notes about how I feel and what I think, so that I don’t forget.

Even so, I’m only human. A book that I’ve won or bought will be at the end of my pile. I will review every book I read, but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the year to get it all done.

For that, I’m sorry. I don’t doubt for a minute that I have some fantastic books in my “currently reading” pile, that I haven’t got round to yet. Some stories that will become my new favourite. Authors who I haven’t discovered yet, who will become my new instant-buy. But, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. Time rages on and even with scheduling my blog, FB page and Twitter, so that I don’t have to spend all day online, I’m still woefully behind.

Forgive me if I haven’t read your book yet. Please just know that I WILL. I will ALWAYS keep my promise of reading and reviewing your book, even if life has made it impossible for me to stick to the timeline I’ve given you. I swear that, if it were up to me, it would be done already. But life had other plans.

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