So Long, 2021, and Thanks for All the Fish
We’re two days into 2022 as I sit in my kitchen with a mug of almond latte and some chocolate, typing this.
2022 has decided to roll in with a bang. We’ve got rain coming down in barrels instead of buckets, and the dogs are a pile of raw nerves after a peal of thunder so close it rattled the windows. I do hope this is not an omen, but I’ll ready my catapult anyway, so I can launch back any more lemons tossed at me. I’m sick of lemonade.
I had high hopes for last year…
I was determined to finish my novel, Tomb of the Giant, and finish the first draft of another one. Together with my friends, Koji and Anike, we were equally determined to finish the first season of our podcast, Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales, wandering the earth in search of dragon myths. I was going to write more short stories and poems as well, although I have to admit those last two were more hazily sketched as far as goals go.
But remember how I said I was sick of lemonade and lemons?
2021 had quite a few for me, and none were even Covid-related.
In February, while my partner was away on a five month deployment, I slipped on a patch of ice, face-planted in a rather ungraceful fashion, and dislocated my shoulder. Me being me, I treated it with an ice pack and a shrug, figuring it would be fine in a week’s time. In hindsight, I should have skipped the shrug because damn, that hurt, and no, it was not fine. Turns out there’s some lasting damage, which admittedly could have been a lot worse. Numerous sessions of manhandling (by which I mean PT) later, it is as good as it’s going to be. I guess it’s time to learn how to navigate life now that my spoon supply has got a very clear limit.
Then, in late July, we discovered that our wolfdog, Liam, was suffering from a brain tumor. We found out only because he had a sudden and violent behaviour change. Which is to say he attacked me. Luckily, my partner was at home and within seconds, he had him off me. Ten minutes later, the dog was confused why I was upset, and clearly worried because I was hurt.
After a trip to the hospital for some stitches in my arm (big dog equals big teeth equals lots of damage in short amounts of time) we had to make the heartbreaking decision to have him euthanised. Even though the incident was in no way his fault, the unpredictable nature of his condition didn’t allow for any alternatives.
Suffice to say this was quite the blow. On top of grieving for a pet who has been with me through some really tough times, and who has physically protected me more than once, I was working through the trauma of being attacked by my him. I had recurring nightmares and flashbacks for a considerable amount of time.
That’s when I decided to prioritise my mental and emotional well-being, rather than pushing myself to stay productive and risking a burnout on top of all that. I gave myself permission to not write, withdrew permission to call myself a slacker, and celebrated any amount of success, even if it was just opening a file and looking at words. That was to be my main focus for the rest of the year. Even though I continued to work on Tomb, and made tentative resolutions to finish it during NaNoWriMo, I kept telling myself “mental health first”.
And then, just as I was regaining my balance, someone rear-ended me as I was driving home after a PCR test. There I was, standing on the side of the road, in a daze, staring at the back of my car, crumpled up like a discarded candy wrapper.
Bloody lemons. More of them. I spent two weeks being a frazzled, unfocused mess (even more so than usual, I mean) as I recovered from my concussion. After a week, I tried going back to work, and firmly got told off by both my GP and the physician in charge of personnel health checks at the hospital where I work. More than a month later, symptoms of my concussion have cleared up, but my neck is still acting up and preventing me from sitting and typing for extended periods of time. Less than two months after I finished PT sessions for my shoulder, I now get to start again next week.
So yeah. I didn’t do all I set out to do. Not even close. I’m still not going to complain.
Because the amount of projects I did finish feel like a small miracle to me
I did finish draft four of Tomb but quickly realised, with some gentle prodding from someone more versed in the art and craft of romance writing, that a fourth draft doesn’t necessarily make for a finished book. As it stands, it’s got a lot of usable material, but is in no shape to be published yet, so off I went on a fifth draft. I’ve almost stumbled my way through and after that, it still won’t be done.
Yeah, I know. Bloody frustrating.
The extent to which Irewrote and tweaked the plot–especially in the second half of the book–means that in many ways it feels and reads like a first draft all over again. Once I cross that finish line, I mean to take a break from that story before I start resenting it, but I already know there will be a sixth draft. If I’m really lucky, this will actually turn out to be the last one but I’m not going to venture so far as to make predictions on it. All of this means that first drafting a second book remained an unfulfilled goal.
We did do what we set out to with our podcasting project too. The Mythsterhood had a first season that ran far longer than we ever expected, and even so we continue to come across more material we might have used, had we found it while actually preparing for our episodes. Under Koji’s watchful eye and skillful managing, the website where we posted both episode notes and blog posts about all things dragon, even outgrew our podcast and turned into a modest resource for people in search of dragon lore.
On top of all that, I started another podcast, called Into the Looking Glass, which features monthly interviews with speculative poets. We talk about their poems, their creative journey, and anything else that comes up during the conversation, including guest appearances from pets. It’s a tiny little project, but one I’m immensely proud of and excited about. Speculative poetry is both a vast spectrum of genres and possibilities, and massively underappreciated, so if there’s anything I can do to help shout about it, even if those shouts land in the void sometimes, I will still do.
I didn’t write all that many short stories after all. A bite-sized bit of flash fiction now and then, perhaps. One of those, It’s Not Because the Shoe Fits, started out at 500 words, but the thing mutated and grew with every revision, like a mogwai you accidentally feed after midnight. Good thing it didn’t bite me.
I did write more poems. Not as many as I’d like, by a long stretch, but I have found a dedicated critique partner for poetry, who I will be doing monthly critique swaps with to hopefully bring a renewed focus to my poetry craft.
Oh, and I narrated fifteen stories, for The Other Stories, The Night’s End, Tales to Terrify, and The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast.
Two poems, the hunter and a dryad arises, got published in Mermaids Monthly and Chlorophobia. The entire tryptich that began with dragon’s lament (NewMyths.com, June 2020) is now out in the world in some form. Two short stories, Mirror Image and The Weight of Your Glare, found homes at The Night’s End and The Other Stories. Forever Fourteen, originally published in November 2019, found its second wind with a reprint publication in the January issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly, and translation into Estonian in Reaktor Magazine in October.
Looking forward, I still plan to put health first, whether that’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being. Mens sana in corpore sano. But also… Sana scriptorem in mente sana. A healthy writer in a healthy mind.
Every creative’s journey is a different one. For me, the highest hurdle is not about facing rejection. It’s about facing my own work. My own words, even if I hate them. They are not the enemy. They are my weapon. I just need to keep reminding myself of that.
As far as projects go, first item on my list will be to finish Tomb‘s fifth draft. Then comes a story I’ve tentatively titled Red Riding Sleuth. With any luck, it will not extend past novella length. Pray for me.
Poetry, as usual, will fit into the cracks. It’s usually something I work on during my coffee break at the hospital, or in other little bits of time that are too short to dig into a longer project, but too long to let them float away unused.
If I can finish that, next up will be a regency romance with its roots burrowed in the work of Jane Austen. Looking beyond that sort of feels like tempting fate, right now. Perhaps I’ll do another post like this at the end of the first quarter, or in June. By then I hope to have a better handle on how far I stand.
Until then, this is me saying ~~so long, and thanks for all the fish~~, wait, no… ~~up yours 2021~~, I mean, thank you, so long, and good luck.
May the odds be finally in our favour.