Books & Movies: A Look Back at 2021
All real-world craziness aside, 2021 was another fruitful writing year for me. I wrote two novels, released one, produced an audiobook, re-released several backlist titles, and found a couple of effective new marketing options. It hasn’t all been champagne and After Eights—far from it—but I can honestly say the successes have far outweighed the disappointments.
Alien Safari: Apex (book 3 in the series) launched in June and did solid business. I’ve realized these are slow-burn, long-term sales generators, so I didn’t want to blow all my marketing budget straight away. Readers keep coming back to this series, which is a huge compliment; the first book is officially my biggest-selling and most-reviewed title on Amazon.
After re-acquiring the rights to my Carina Press titles, I re-released several of them in the first half of 2021. Sparks in Cosmic Dust, in particular, is one I wanted to give a second chance. It’s a personal favourite—my original editor Deb Nemeth loved it, too—but for some reason it never really found its audience there. So I’m glad to see it’s now garnering a lot more interest, and enthusiastic feedback, from sci-fi readers now that it’s part of the expanded universe.
The success story of the year, though, has to be Star Binder. It had a rocky road to publication back in 2017. After almost landing an agent—she ultimately passed, though was complimentary—it fell into that classic limbo between genres when I self-published it. Young adult or science fiction: the two do cross over, but it’s a tough niche to break into, and to market to. So I decided to repackage it this year, going for a more minimalist sci-fi cover. A free giveaway gave it the kick-start it needed. It reached #1 in the Science Fiction category on Amazon, and enjoyed a stunning run on Kindle Unlimited, generating more page reads than all my other titles combined in 2021. Talk about a turnaround! It’s also received stellar reader feedback, so a massive thank you to everyone who left a review or rating on Amazon or Goodreads.
The best new science fiction novel I read this year was without doubt Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, an instant classic. I also tried books in several genres I hadn’t touched before, with varying results. My favourite was probably Pickoff by GP Hutchinson, a winning blend of Prohibition-era baseball, gangsters and forbidden romance. Of the classic novels I read, Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby was the most rewarding—not as powerful as David Copperfield, but still a hugely enjoyable read. I also completed my latest re-read of Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander series (20 books, though not all in one year).
Movies were a mixed bag overall, but with cinemas re-opening I at least got to renew my Cineworld subscription. Top film of 2021 for me? Spielberg’s exhilarating version of West Side Story, the best film musical I’ve seen in years. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune rocked the sci-fi world, and arguably can’t be bettered as an adaptation of (the first half of) Frank Herbert’s seminal tome. New movies I enjoyed more than I expected to included M. Night Shyamalan’s weird-but-compelling Old, Edgar Wright’s dynamic Last Night in Soho, and the lively Ryan Reynolds comedy, Free Guy.
2022 promises the return of several huge franchises, including Avatar, Top Gun, Mission Impossible, and Jurassic World, not to mention all the Marvel and DC madness. But I’ll also be on the lookout for unexpected gems like last year’s Nobody, starring Bob Odenkirk in a kick-ass action role.
As for my own work, if everything goes according to plan, I should be able to publish another two books, and write two or possibly three further sci-fi novels, including a sequel to Star Binder. I’ll give further updates when I have more news, but for now, happy reading, happy trails, and more importantly,
Happy New Year!