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 Blog Tour Review - A Power Unbound by Freya Marske Secrets! Magic! Enemies to. . .something more? Jack Alston, Lord Hawthorn, would love a nice, safe, comfortable life. After the death of his twin sister, he thought he was done with magic for good. But with the threat of a dangerous ritual hanging over every magician in Britain, he’s drawn reluctantly back into that world. Now Jack is living in a bizarre puzzle-box of a magical London townhouse, helping an unlikely group of friends track down the final piece of the Last Contract before their enemies can do the same. And to make matters worse, they need the help of writer and thief Alan Ross. Cagey and argumentative, Alan is only in this for the money. The aristocratic Lord Hawthorn, with all his unearned power, is everything that Alan hates. And unfortunately, Alan happens to be everything that Jack wants in one gorgeous, infuriating package. When a plot to seize unimaginable power comes to a head at Cheetham Hall―Jack’s ancestral fam

2022 - My Year in Review

 My Year in Review

Well, 2022 was certainly an interesting year! As I tend to get quite reflective and melancholy at this time of year, I thought it might help to look back at some of what I achieved over 2022. And I hope that maybe some of my readers might find it interesting too?

Me at Tabletop Scotland, Perth. Aug 2022

To add a bit of context, 2021 was absolutely horrible! I spent the first half of it recovering from Covid. Then, just as lockdown restrictions were starting to lift I got labyrinthitis. I have honestly never been so ill! I left two of my closest friends seriously worried about me because I couldn't use my phone on the first day to tell anyone how ill I was. I lay on my sofa with a towel over my face to stop the room spinning, feeling myself getting dehydrated but totally unable to make it to the kitchen barely a few steps away for water. On the second or third day I moved in to my mum's because I was frankly scared to be on my own, and I didn't leave her spare room for a full week. I was feeling the effects for months, and even when I thought I was recovered I went to a Christmas lights display and realised that no, I really wasn't. So yeah, the whole year was pretty much a write-off in many ways.

I decided right from the start that 2022 was going to be different. I decided that this was a year where I wasn't going to put things off or procrastinate. Instead, I'd just get it done. This ended up affecting so many areas of my life and made a huge difference! I've always been prone to put things off for another day, and some things I just never get around to. Good things and bad, I was just going to go for it.

Still in a quasi-lockdown, I started with things around the flat. I moved in here four years ago, and at the time I did a hell of a lot of work on the place, but there were some things I'd been thinking about doing and hadn't gotten done, despite being stuck here throughout lockdown. Starting in January I took on several big projects around the home. I added spotlights in my reading room, one mounted to the top of each bookcase. They're all controllable and dimmable using the same little remote control, and I absolutely love them! They look so much smarter than the LED string of lights I had before, make the room much lighter (I now use them instead of the main light as they're brighter) and just look cool! 


and I ripped the shelves out of one of my pantries and rebuilt the inside of it. I'm lucky enough to have quite a bit of storage space here, but this was one area I'd been looking at for years, thinking it could have more shelves. It turned into a much bigger job than I'd anticipated, but with the help of a local community wood-yard, I rebuilt it into a much better space.

Before / During / After

I took chances and made exciting things happen in my Dungeons and Dragons world too. The Head Cartographer on Triden Games, my main DnD community, stepped down. In mid-January I sent the Treasurer a message expressing my interest in taking on the role. I set out the experience and aptitude that I thought would make me an asset in the role, because, despite not having a great deal of map-making experience, I honestly believed that this was something I could do well. He agreed, replying to tell me that he would be very happy to give me the role. Since then I've grown our team of resident cartographers and worked to publish a large number of map packs on DM's Guild. It still amazes me that I get royalties!

One thing we'd been talking circles around on Triden for ages was running some kind of event. Every few months it would come up, we would all agree that we should, and throw ideas around until something else distracted us. Well, I decided that what it would take was more direct action. I knew of a three-part community created adventure series that was designed to be run simultaneously at three different tiers, the Siege of the Yellow Rose, so one morning I got up and announced to the whole server that I would be running this. People started volunteering to help me DM it, and the other staff members threw their full support behind it as I started sending messages out to the Treasurer, Admin and Head DM about what I needed from them to make it happen. On 19th March I ran my first multi-table DnD event for about 20 players and it was a huge success! It really kicked things off in the community too, with a further three events this year, one of which I ran and the other two I assisted with. I think I put it well on Twitter. Hah, that was actually a few days before I messaged the Treasurer about becoming Head Cartographer!



Most of my campaigns just kept running through the year, though I did start some new ones. Acquisitions Incorporated started in May, and has just been so fun! It's the group I played Wild Beyond the Witchlight with, and we've kept the group together but rotated DM. I'm loving this campaign, with an adventuring franchise trying to manage their business affairs while fighting off evil villains! My Ravenloft: Mist Hunters campaign came to an end at the start of the summer, and as the players wanted to stick together I started running a Strixhaven campaign in October. They've just finished their first year at this magical university, and that's another one with a light-hearted emphasis on fun that I'm loving. I'm looking forward to a few long-running campaigns coming to an end in 2023, and starting to think about what might come next. I also kept running games as a Resident DM on Triden, and a total of 44 games, or 3.7 a month, made me the most prolific resident there! Two full runs of the seven-part Spies Below the Moonsea series has been a particular highlight.

I also got to experience in-person DMing and playing when I went to Tabletop Scotland in Perth. I ran three games over two days, including a 7-person table for the Drums of the Dead epic that was probably the most I've laughed during a game! I also got to meet my friends Myke and Maluku in person, which helped make it an incredibly fun weekend. I'll definitely be back next year, and I really want to do more in-person gaming.

Myke, Maluku and Me, Perth, Scotland. August 2022

 One thing I've really wanted to do for a few years now is to run a Dungeons and Dragons game for a group of professional authors. It's something I've always put off, because I wasn't good enough, because no one would want to play, because I couldn't make it work. But Liam-2022 just does stuff, right? So I did! I announced that I would be doing it, and was immediately blown away by the response. The first game happened in May, and included two authors I love, Rachel Delahaye and Kieran Larwood. The second took place in July with some more amazing authors and illustrators including Laura Ellen Anderson and Jamie Littler. You can see both on my YouTube channel by following the links in the side bar. This was the realisation of a huge personal ambition of mine, and there'll be more next year. I've already got a list of interested authors, and I'm looking forward to getting them running more regularly.

Wormholes and Bookworms Presents: The Ember King. July 2022

 

This brings me nicely on to my book world. On 1st January 2022 I stated the following:


Well! I had a huge push on my Netgalley backlist over the summer, and I actually got my ratio right up to 100%! It's dipped again, but is still sitting at a highly respectable 86% at the end of the year. The reason for this dip is because I achieved my 100 reviews badge ages ago and I'm now racing towards my 200 reviews badge. I've submitted feedback on 166 books, and have 193 approved, so I don't need many more to get that next badge. 

And as for using my blog more, in 2021 I posted eight blog posts. Five blog tour posts, a guest post from SinĂ©ad O'Hart and two reviews in mid-December. This is my one hundred and thirty-fifth blog post for 2022. I'm pretty sure that counts as using my blog more! I've put so much energy into it, and figured out really useful techniques like scheduling posts and also scheduling the tweets that publicise them. I've copied all of my reviews from Netgalley into my blog, and onwards to Amazon, Waterstones and Goodreads. It's all running smoothly and efficiently, and it's paying off, with new relationships opening up with different publishers and 57.2k views this year! 

Starting in the summer, I started getting away to book events again, with a couple of launch parties in London and the Penguin YA summer cocktail party. 

Penguin Platform YA Cocktail Party with Vicky Bishop, July 2022

Other events followed in London and Edinburgh, ending the year with an incredible week including the Authorfy Christmas party, the Big Kid Lit Pub Quiz and the Piccadilly Christmas shopping night. I actually got to assemble a quiz team of authors, a bookseller and me, and we finished a very close second! Between that and the "authors and publishing professionals only" party invite, I ended the year still amazed that this is my life! 

Otterly Brilliant will be back!. Big Kid Lit Pub Quiz, Dec. 2022

The Hexham Book Festival was a real highlight. It was fantastic to get back to Cymera. I just caught the very end of Edinburgh Book Festival this year, and got to a couple in Newcastle. Next year, I have plans for a big blogger meetup at the Barnes Kid Lit Festival, so there'll be more on that soon! And the Great North Author Tour was back, and I got to meet up with some beloved authors and give them hugs!

Vashti Hardy, James Nicol and Me, GNAT @ The Bound, Oct. 2022

I guess that's the professional stuff from this year. And I've started to think of the DnD and the blogging as professional work, which I think helps me manage my life around it. A lot of personal stuff happened too. I got my first piercing since I had an ear stud in my teenage years. This is something I've been toying with for years, but always been too scared to actually do it. Well I decided in January that I was definitely going to do it, and went online and found a studio in Newcastle to get it done. One of my friends challenged me that it didn't actually count because I hadn't made the appointment, so I went back on and made the appointment for April. The piercing studio is in Old Eldon Square, in a little place downstairs, which, funnily enough, is also where the piercing is. The lovely lady who pierced me told me it is addictive, and I'd be back. Turns out she was right! I started 2022 without a single piercing, and I'm ending it with three! Next year I might add some that people can actually see.

It's been a challenging year with relationships. I had what might have been the first serious relationship I've had since my marriage, as a friendship grew into something altogether more intimate. And then ended. It was hard walking away from it when it wasn't working, and I still have times when I'm not sure I did the right thing. Over half a year later I still miss her and it still hurts when I see her name pop up in unexpected places. But she gave me a lot of my confidence back, and really helped to improve my self-image, which has led me to exciting new places. Thanks to her, I feel like I still have a lot to offer and I'm not too old, too tired, too fat, too whatever. For that, at least, I'll always be grateful. 

I also got a lot better at asking for help. There are a few people who were really there for me when I really needed someone to talk to. It wasn't easy, opening up while protecting confidences. Some people knew who I was talking about, but not the full extent of what happened between us. Some I talked to about what went on, without naming names. I think there was one, maybe two, people who got everything. I love you all, and thank you!

I even reached out for professional help, something I've never felt able to do before, and had an evaluation meeting with someone from Talking Helps who recommended therapy I'm still waiting for six months later. So thank the gods for my friends who were there to listen. I found my "Just do it" attitude extending to seeking support in other areas I've traditionally been really bad at. I sought help from a financial charity, and got a lot of excellent support from them getting my finances back in order. And when I found a lump, I went to the doctors and then for scans and got the reassurances I needed, rather than my usual approach of ignoring it while getting anxious about it. 

And those exciting new places? Well, I'll just say that not all dungeons involve rolling dice and leave the rest to your imaginations. But I've met some lovely new people, and there's one I really like who seems to really like me. I don't think it's going anywhere, but it is nice to be somebody's crush again. I'm hoping I've learnt from the last time, and that this will be fun without ending in me getting hurt. Well, not getting my heart hurt at least. But I feel like I've opened up an exciting new door and I'm very excited in exploring the world that lies beyond it in 2023.

Oh! And on 1st November, Sootica entered my life. The naughtiest kitten in the world, and I lover her so much!

her first day with us and she's already ridiculous! Nov. 2022

In 2023 I want to focus more on my body, as I'm hopefully getting over some of the long Covid. My gym membership is already set up about to start, so I really want to get fit again. I want to get out more, maybe get back into birding, or go see some new butterflies. My body image might be better, but I do know I can be fitter, and being a little slimmer wouldn't be a bad thing either. Definitely more book events! I already have two trips to Edinburgh and one to London booked and paid for, and I'm hoping to get to some more launch parties. I'm definitely going to Barnes, and this might finally be the year I get to Bath. I've met so many book people I've known online for years for the first time this year, and reconnected with people I'd not seen for years. I want more of that! Now that my blog is running nicely I want to try new things with it, and work with new publishers. I've started featuring more adult fiction, and that's something I want to do more with. A lot of my DnD campaigns are due to end in 2023, and I need to have a big think about where I'm going with that. I have a few ideas for things I want to run, but I also want to cut back a little and give myself more time for other things.

Here's to 2023, hope to see you there!

- Liam




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