2020 Postmortem

I know everybody is all holy buckets can this year be over please, but I dunno. What evidence do we have that 2021 will be any better?

(Everyone, to me, after that last thing I just said.)

In truth, for me, this year has been a mixed bag like most others… only more so. Yes, we had the whole awful election cycle and a pandemic to deal with. More personally, I had to deal with back problems that immobilized me for months, left me walking with a cane, and dealing with some severe depression. Also, my oldest brother died of cancer just a few months ago. This is not garden-variety levels of bad.

On the other hand, the shutdown this past March came just at the right time to allow me to teach my university classes online as my bad back crapped out and I didn’t move for many months. If not for the shutdown, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my job. What’s more, I have healed somewhat miraculously over the last three months, so now I’m walking upright without any mobility aids, and I’m able to do simple jobs around the house again. This has improved my family relationships immeasurably. (Credit where it’s due: my wife and kids have been fantastically supportive and understanding as I’ve struggled with my health from day one. Still, it relieves a certain amount of resentment when dad can at least take out the trash now and then.)

Also, as I’ve talked about in the last few updates, my first book launched as part of a massively successful Kickstarter campaign right at the end of the year. We raised nearly $120k, almost four times as much as the original funding goal! (If you’re interested, you can find pre-orders here.) I’m going through final edits on A Gathering of Chaos right now, and I’m massively excited to get it into people’s hands. It may not be a traditional publishing deal, but nearly 1,100 people will get a copy of my book, and from there… who knows?

Even on the writing front things have been weird and ambivalent. This is the first year in which I haven’t started a new novel in four or five years, and I don’t like that one bit. It wasn’t a wasted year, though, as I confronted the reality that not only A Gathering of Chaos but also Wander the Lost needed some serious structural rewrites. I’m 95% done with Gathering and probably 50% done with Wander, and this is the first time as a writer I’ve been able to let go of my preciousness and say, “No, this book needs to be better, and I’m going to do the work to get it there.” That’s a level up, folks, and I’m proud of it. Only a million more levels to go. I plan on delivering the final draft of Gathering by next week and then I’m going to dive back into Wander. I want to have it in good shape within a month or two. Then and only then will I allow myself to start on the new story I’ve been noodling on about a tough-as-nails grandma innkeeper who has to stop a war.

So the lows have been super low and the highs have been extra high. I’m really not sure how much more of this I can take. I keep hoping for the best and doing what I can to get through the day. All I can say now is this: Please, 2021… be gentle.

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