What a strange year this was. Not just strange, but scary too. And sad. At times, so very, very sad.
It’s hard to think of these pandemic years and not have those feelings spring to mind first. Without my very conscious effort to compile what I accomplished this year, I would have thought of it as a complete dud. Not that “pandemic years” need to be more than duds, if it means we’re alive and still moving forward.
But because the rest of this blogpost is going to be about the positives, the happy memories, the successes and proud victories, while the overall feeling for the year is somewhat gray, I feel I owe the grayness a mention here now.
(TW: death and suicide. Please skip to the bolded bit, if needed.)
As someone obsessed with death, who writes so much about it – including a capital d, Death – this year seemed especially marked by endings. In December 2020, my grandma died. In March 2021, the bestest pepperoni, Duke passed. Both of these felt like deaths that had been delayed. In some wonderful ways, it meant more time with both of them. It also meant seeing them in states, for far too long, where they were declining, where they were ready to go.
And then there was a shift. The deaths that marked the year were sudden. Suicides of friends, neighbors. The type of deaths I haven’t experienced in a long, long time.
Both types of death are accompanied by pain. Pain for those dying, pain for those still alive. Deep pains that take a while to dull and longer for scar tissue to build up, but they will. And slowly, they do. We won’t be the same, but eventually when we look back on those people, the good memories come first.
And in that spirit, for the rest of the post, let us bathe in those good memories and accomplishments!
As per the name of this blog, let’s go ahead and start with READING. I set my goal to a modest 24 books, reasoning that 2 books a month was reasonable, even if I hadn’t actually managed to hit that in The Year That Started This Nonsense (aka 2020).
And y’all, I freaking crushed it. (If we can use “crushed” loosely because I only read 6 more books than was my goal.) But 30!!! I read 30 books this year!! Even better, I’d say I enjoyed almost all of them immensely. Some absolute stand-outs were Beach Read (my very first pick of the year, so it started off strong), The Hero of Ages, The Girl from the Well, Craft in the Real World, The Anthropocene Reviewed, and Steering the Craft.
I also re-learned the lesson that romcoms are the absolute best way to get out of a reading slump. Jasmine Guillory‘s books were exactly what I needed them to be, each and every time. So while Royal Holiday and Party of Two don’t make my list of favorite books I read this year, they were standouts for that reason.
Now let’s move on to my WRITING revelations for this year (as it was revelation heavy) and a few happy accidents/accomplishments that happened along the way.
While I began the year focused on finishing The Meridian Maps (as I have now successfully zero drafted all five books in the series, but needed to go back to the first book and incorporate what I’d learned), I ended up abandoning that goal when I realized, frankly, I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Series are hard! Series are hard. Who knew?? The lesson I took from this was that I needed to hone my fantasy skills with a standalone novel first. And so the return to Project Death was a happy, unexpected accident! One that I started working on ahead of NaNoWriMo and I’m about 75.69% done with, as of writing this sentence. My friend Jess and I are exchanging novels on January 31st, and I’m so very ready for someone else to meet these characters I adore.
2021 was truly my year of collaboration. It all kicked off with Ara at Bentley House Minis and finally showing her build and my accompanying short story. Working with her was absolutely the coolest and I was – and still am – so in awe of her skills and creativity! While I think I could do much better on the story now (more on that in 2022?), I was happy to have finally shared something with my YouTube audience.
Then my friend Cam invited me to join his horror anthology! A new genre is always scary and fun and this one even moreso. This also led to my increasing interest in the short story format and so in September I took on the Ray Bradbury Challenge and got to hang out more with my friend Ka’Shay, who had been writing a short story each week since the start of the year!
I’d also been working on a “DnD novelization” project, a Buddy Thieves story, with my brothers. Between Robert’s audacious character and David’s lush and intricate worldbuilding, it was such a joy to turn our sessions into a serial. And when I heard the news about Kindle Vella, that excitement spiked…to the point that I announced something I shouldn’t have. One thing I learned about myself – and what having an audience means – this year, is that it’s better for me not to announce anything until it’s basically about to be printed. That’s just on me. Because once I thought through how irregularly my brothers and I played (and therefore how quickly my material would run out), I realized I didn’t want anyone paying for a story I didn’t know how often I’d update. I hated that back in my fanfiction days, so there was no way I was going to do that to others now, in 2021. So in 2022, the story will go up for free, on a semi-regular basis, right here on my website. I’m excited.
A couple other accomplishments: My “streaming project,” which I only worked on while I was live-streaming on Twitch. I actually outlined this from start to finish and followed that outline over the course of writing (half of) it. As someone who falls more to the pantser side of the plantser scale, this has been a fun, new adventure! Within the next couple months I’m hoping to return to that WIP, once Project Death is completed. I also continued writing and publishing under my romance pen name, which I am still debating if I’ll ever share with anyone else. It’s been fun to have my own little secret, and I enjoy the idea that if people found my works and enjoyed them, it has nothing to do with me as a person.
Now one advantage that 2021 had over 2020 is that we could start ROAMING again! After I very happily received my double Pfizer vaccination, the first trip I took was to meet up with my family in Lake Tahoe! I think I’ll do an entire write-up on all these trips another time, but I also hit up my old stomping grounds of Vegas (twice!), built a lightsaber at Walt Disney World, day drank on a party barge in Austin, attended the chaos of ComicCon with my friend Becca, and received my booster vaccine! (I went Moderna this time.) My entire immediate family, all partners included, came down to San Antonio for us all to be together over the holidays. There was something just so warm and comforting in being surrounded by these people I’ve missed so very much, eating turkey and brisket and queso and all sorts of other delicious that The Boyfriend smoked, and playing games and chatting together. We also visited The Boyfriend’s family on Christmas Day and discussed a future family vacation back to Vietnam. That was so wonderful too, in feeling so comfortable and accepted and adored by another family that’s become my own.
I will say, I was clearly making up for lost time and am now paying the price. I. Am. Exhausted. So another lesson that’s ultimately more of a reminder: Take a breather between travel. You’ll enjoy all your trips more that way.
Whew! I think that’s it for 2021.
And while I do have some writing, reading, roaming, and work-related goals for 2022, this New Year will also be my 30th year. I made a big deal about my 30×30 (or 3 big goals with 10 mini goals, so I suppose 10 by 3 by 30 is perhaps more accurate), the list of of things I’d like to accomplish before my 30th birthday, and dammit if I don’t still plan on achieving them!
So with a renewed energy, I shall once again focus on getting strong, learning to cook, and speaking Spanish! Wish me luck!
And to quote one of my favorites, Evelyn from the Internets, my continued mantra for this year is: “Don’t be afraid to be seen trying.” I hope you enjoy all your trying in 2022!