Well I'm back home after ten days of skiing. I've slept most of the last 24 hours and feel rather more self indulgent than usual, so this is going to be a bit of a random blog post. Come on – it's that weird time of year when Christmas is over but the horrors of the New Year have yet to really sink in, so we're all a bit more random than usual.
Whatever your views on global warming, if you're a regular Christmas skier you will have seen some changes lately. This year saw the French Alps covered in snow in November, which all melted away sometime early in December. When we arrived, temperatures were firmly back down at snow-making levels but there was an obstinate refusal of anything to fall from the sky. Resorts have responded to these early-season mishaps by massively improving the quality and quantity of snow cannon that produce white stuff that skis just like regular snow. The result is that a large area resort – like the three valleys where we were – has areas of high altitude natural snow linked with long paths (sometimes miles long) of wide pistes stretching across otherwise snowless mountain meadows. It's an odd experience, but we were able to cover all four of the three valleys (yes – the fourth valley is now very definitely a thing) and ski a wide variety of different pistes over our ten days.
The combination of no recent snowfall, low temperatures and some quite high winds meant that at altitude many of the slopes were essentially rather steeply sloping ice rinks. Our old skis were not up to the job and we decided it was time to finally bite the bullet and get something more suited to the conditions. The fashion, which had been getting sneakily longer for a few years, is now firmly back to shorter skis and we were able to have fun on our nippy new toys with their viciously sharpened edges. If you enjoy icy slopes, there is something particularly satisfying about remaining attached to a smooth, steep stretch of something that bears only the most distant relationship to what most people think of as snow and somehow magically remaining upright. We had a fabulous time.
What I very definitely didn't do on my holidays was keep in touch with the lovely people who are still reviewing 'Back Home'. So many, many thanks to Sharon, who blogged her review just as we set off for France. And thanks too to Jera's Jamboree for posting an interview about my books on James Burke. And Elle Field, whose interview with me was a particular pleasure. She had some really interesting questions and it's a shame that the interview may well have got overlooked in all the pre-Christmas excitement..
This last month of 2016 has seemed to produce a lot of publicity from some lovely people. I was particularly thrilled when Rosie Amber's book review team made Back Home runner up in their awards for best Historical Fiction of 2016. It's the first time any of my books have won anything and it meant a lot to me – especially as sales of Back Home have been disappointing.
I was also excited to be the featured interview in Historia magazine, the online magazine of the Historical Writers' Association. This was a particular honour for me, as I featured alongside Paul Collard, whose Jack Lark books I really admire.
So here I am in a welter of dirty laundry and some lovely Xmas presents (yes, books featured), trying to come to terms with being back at home and getting on top of domestic chores as well as thanking all of you who have been so kind about my books and generous with blog posts and reviews and interviews. Most people are happy to see the end of 2016 (with George Michael and Carrie Fisher the list of lost icons seems determined to drag us down all the way to the very end of the year) but it has, after its share of ups and downs, ended on a high note for me. I am truly grateful to all of you who have supported my writing and only sorry that the last ten days have left me too tired to give you all the acknowledgement you deserved. I hope it's not too late to thank you all now.
Enjoy the rest of 2016. I'll see you all next year.