I am still here! This long silence is what happens when a deadline draws near. I am going to enter my novel for the Harry Bowling prize and I have been have a late flurry of redrafting. This is in the light of a couple of critiques which have been very useful. Never be afraid of getting work critiqued at any stage! Now, I can read the first chapter without a twinge of doubt. Of course, there is the searing stab of doubt that ruptures a few organs periodically but that's a life issue as much as a writing one.
No, the twinge business has gone because I feel that the first chapter is as good as it is going to ever get. I really do. Really. No, honestly.