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A new year begins, and everything – and I belong to the list-making sort, if only marginally. So, with a lovely new notebook to start, what was more natural than making a list of writing projects for the new year?

It is, of course, one of those hopeful lists, with way more items than I can reasonably expect to tackle – although you never can tell – and written down in full awareness of the nature of the best laid plans.

Of course, at the top of the list are Tom Walsingham and his mysteries: whatever rewrites the publisher asks for Road to Murder first, and then the second book. And the list also includes something I should be sending out next week – but I won’t. Competition, deadline, procrastination, possibly a bit of self-sabotage… you know the sort of story – and if you don’t, then you have my envy. To make a long story short, a few days ago I realised that I just couldn’t do it both in time and well – and so gave up. I’m not terribly used to that, and can’t quite decide yet whether it was a rare flash of wisdom or a dangerous precedent… anyway, the thing is in the list (having grown a second head), because I don’t mean to drop it.

And then there are five more things, all of them plays, a couple of adaptations and some originals – mostly on spec, the world being what it is at present.

It is a nice list – just possibly the tiniest bit insane but not entirely out of the realm of possibility – and, while I wait for news from the publisher, I thought I’d give it a go and start a first draft of one of the items.

“What is it about?” my friend Milla asked – and I told her about this Caroline poet, with the perfect story and the sad end…

“O dear, how gloomy!” Milla sighed. “You are doing it again! Would you do me a favour, and write something cheerful for once?”

I started to protest that I do write cheerful things now and then, that I’m not all that gloomy, that…

And that’s when I seriously considered my list. And found it full of sad, melancholy, slightly gloomy stories. People who try to grab for the stars – and end up failed, disillusioned, embittered, and/or dead.

“Well, yes – but…” I tried. “The mysteries end happily.”

Milla snorted in laughter. “Except for the murdered ones…”

Which is, of course, true – but then, you can’t have a murder mystery without a murder or three, can you? And anyway, the general mood is, if not exactly cheerful, definitely not gloomy.

But the rest? I have to admit it: the rest of my list – with one possible minor exception – verges on the melancholy rather than otherwise. And mind, I don’t do it for the sake of sadness or anything… why, I don’t even do it very deliberately, it would seem: I hadn’t even realised I was doing it at all, until I was called out on it…

“I rest my case, gentlemen of the Jury,” Milla said – or something to that effect. “So make a New Year’s resolution, will you? Write. One. Cheerful. Thing.”

This was yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been thinking, on and off, of something cheerful to write. One cheerful story. Or play, or… and would you believe, I still have to come up with one cheerful tale I’d truly want to tell?

It’s beginning to stick in my mind (as Alan Breck would say), that I just might be a slightly gloomy person.