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I concluded 2021 with one of the worst work weeks in a bad year and started 2022 with period cramps—like, right after midnight. It’s a good thing I’m not superstitious, otherwise I’d consider it a bad omen. I think most of us agree that 2021 was the last in a trilogy of terrible years that I hope doesn’t have more in its series, but it’s hard to hold out hope these days. I just try to take it a week at a time. Looking too far ahead leads directly to despair, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

However, in spite of the tint of my pessimism glasses, I do have to admit that even a year that tipped toward the bad side of the scale doesn’t necessary have nothing on the good side.

My niece was born at the end of 2020, so we spent 2021 watching her grow. I’m neither maternal nor particularly nurturing, so there aren’t going to be children from my line, but I love that little girl, and getting to see her in person and in pictures and video was the main highlight of my year.

On the writing side, the highlight was publishing the third book in the Thorns series, BLUEBIRDS, although that series is still under most people’s radar. I keep at it in case it crops up later and because I don’t like unfinished things, plus I like this universe. I did my first editing pass of PUPPETEER (T4), cutting the bloated 219K words down to 183K. I’m on the second editing pass now and shooting for under 170K words, if possible, before sending it out to editors and beta readers.

The rest of the writing side was a bit shaky. I tried to write the DRACULA reimagining scheduled in the spring, but I made it about 75K words before I realized it was Not Working. Instead of finishing it and hoping to clean it up later, I wrote myself so deep into Not Working that I had to just stop. When I try again this year, I’m going into it with an outline and an adjusted style for the video epistolary, so we’ll see whether that works.

With the failure of the reimagining attempt, I was a bit at odds with my writing, so I decided to take on a novella—something shorter that wouldn’t hurt as badly if I had to stop. I finished writing creature feature short novel THE VERY HUNGRY at the end of May. I’d originally conceived of it as a short story, so I decided to see if I could recreate that feeling in my head. I came to the conclusion after several starts and stops that some things that play as a movie in one’s head doesn’t always translate to the page, because movies can show rather than tell in such a unique way not available to written narrative. However, after the fourth try, I managed to write a short version, although it’s too long for most anthology calls. I’ll see what I can do with it in the future.

Trying to write the short story version of THE VERY HUNGRY, however, triggered something that I hadn’t planned on for my year. After years of assuming that I wasn’t a short-form writer, I actually ended up writing for a number of short story anthology calls. I do have more stop-restarts than I do for novels, which is frustrating, but at least you don’t lose as much time when you stop-restart after 6K than 75K words. Not counting a few pieces of flash fiction, I wrote 15 stories of 1-15K words. Some of them were too long for the calls and had to be put to the side for now. Of the ones I submitted, some received personalized rejections (which is a good thing), and one of them was accepted! “Resin,” my queer horror-tragedy short story, will be published Feb 2022 in Ghost Orchid Press’ BEYOND THE VEIL.

In addition to short stories this year, I tried my hand at poetry. I’ve always tagged my song lyrics as ‘not a poet,’ because I always felt pretentious as hell writing poetry before, although I’d done a few pieces over the years. I didn’t feel I deserved to call it poetry, much less call myself a poet. But the gothic/horror prompts from Quill & Crow Publishing House inspired me, so about mid-July, I took the plunge. Ever since, I’ve been posting flash poetry daily on my Twitter feed, and I found my voice in it so that I don’t feel pretentious anymore (most of the time). It’s a lot of fun, just trying to create a feeling or image and play and paint with words on a micro scale, and two were published in Quill & Crow’s Volume 3 of CROW CALLS.

Writing both short stories and poetry was a bit like learning a new language, and for a few months after starting each, my brain lit up from all the new imaginative muscles flexing. They’ve since settled, but it was still quite a creative high.

For NaNoWriMo, I planned to take a break from editing PUPPETEER to write a few long short stories or novelettes. I had a list of about three or four I intended to finish during the month. Little did I know that the first one, HOSTILE TERRITORY, would turn into another short novel. So that happened. It needs some work and will probably be a novella by the time it’s trimmed down, and I still have some things I’m not sure about with it. But at least I don’t need to scrap it like the DRACULA reimagining. Just another story to store in the trunk until I can tackle it again.

On a personal level, I didn’t lose any more weight. In fact, I gained a little during the holidays. However, I did get off of my insulin-resistance and cholesterol medications, and the holidays are almost over, so hopefully I’ll be able to get back down to a more manageable level. I’ve come to accept that I am fat and will always be fat at every size, and nothing short of devastating illness or cosmetic surgery is going to change that, so I have to focus on my health rather than my size to avoid disappointment.

I don’t really have personal goals for the year. Like I said, if I try to look much farther than a week, it’s not the greatest feeling. I’ll stick with writing goals, although even that hasn’t been without its frustrations.

In 2022, I’ll finish editing PUPPETEER (T4) and send it out. I hope to self-publish it by the end of the year, although I feel on shakier ground with it than the other four I’ve written. When that’s done, I’ll probably edit short novel THE VERY HUNGRY to prep for submission, although I don’t know where yet. Then I’d like to tackle WILDWORLD (T5), although there are still elements I’m unsure about, so I might need to do some basic outlining to figure it out. After that, I think I’ll block out some months for short story anthology calls and some of the shorts/novelettes on my list. Then I hope to revisit the DRACULA reimagining with a tight outline and see if that helps. For NaNoWriMo 2022, I’d like to start the sequel to UNDEAD ANONYMOUS, which was NaNo 2020’s project, but although I know how it starts, I still don’t know where it’s going, so we’ll see. There’s always something else to work on. My project list doesn’t really get shorter.

Here’s hoping 2022 has more grains of rice on the good side of the scale.