It’s difficult for me to recall what I’ve done in the previous week, not to mention an entire year. Thankfully, I’ve got many documents and journal entries to remind me just what the hell happened in 2021. One is tempted to speak only on one’s victories, to cherry-pick only the bright spots in one’s life. But of course, isn’t it better to include the panoply of human experience? With every joy and victory there is despair and failure!
I’ll start with the failures, but shall end on only positive notes:
I received around 40 rejections from publishers regarding short stories, poems, and essays. I wrote a 114,000 word-length novel, and in the end, didn’t much like it. I began writing another novel, got 20,000 words in, then didn’t have enough inspiration to complete it. I struggled for months over short stories. What was once a joy and release had become a chore. I was writing every day, yes, but the stories were no good. I became frustrated and slightly depressed. I got restless. Drank a bit too much.
Now, onto the positives, which I believe will vastly outweigh what I’ve shared thus far:
All in all, I wrote 29 short stories, 1 short screenplay, 1 giant novel, 3 personal essays, 83 poems, and 3 journal books. I pat myself on the back and say, “Not bad, kid.” All the while, I’m hoping to do even better in the upcoming year.
When I fell into that uninspired slump with my stories, I counteracted by drastically changing my routine. Instead of writing a short story every week, as I’d been doing the past two years, I decided to write one poem a day for an entire month! This resulted in a full-length poetry book, titled, “I Grew Up in a Haunted House”, which I aim to edit and publish. After that, I wrote a personal essay every week, and came up with some decent pieces that way.
Along with 40 story rejections, and many “non-responses” (or, at the very least, eternally pending responses . . . ) from publishers, I was able to sell three stories I’d written. Here they are:
“If Fish Could Scream” was sold to Forlorn-The Periodical.
“Out Beneath the Jack O’ Lantern Sky” was sold to Hellbound Books for their Madame Gray’s Vault of Gore anthology.
“Billy’s First Haircut” was sold and will appear in an upcoming issue of Cosmic Horrror Monthly — which I’m incredibly excited about.
I’ve also compiled a NEW short story collection (I’ll be editing this and sending it off to publishers soon, hoping to publish traditionally as opposed to self-publishing, as I’ve done with all of my books thus far).
TWO of my stories were also featured in WEIRDSMITH: Number One, from Too Much Weird press. I also independently published MATTERS MOST MACABRE, my proudest work to date (which has also collected many excellent reviews), as well as published GATOR HOUSE, a novelette, which has received mostly good, yet mixed reviews.
Today is January 1st of 2022, and I’ve began it by pounding out 4000+ words and finishing a new short story, “An Obsolete Art”, which I believe readers are truly going to enjoy. It’s a slow build of a story, yet with an utterly macabre pay-off!
As for my next creative project, I’ll be directing a debut film, a fifteen minute black-and-white supernatural feature called, “A Bell-Tierney Christmas Mystery”, which is currently in pre-production and will be shot in early February. I’ve got some great actor-friends tagged to this film. I’m incredibly nervous and excited to make it.
Best of all, above even writing and art, 2021 is the year I married the love of my life, Tessandra. We are closer, and happier, than we’ve ever been in our six years together. I’m grateful for what will be, if I’m fortunate, many more years with this excellent (and patient) human being. She doesn’t merely put up with my idiosyncrasies and my ego, but rather accepts me as I am — and that is love.
In addition, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by the talented Candace Nola, for her website, Uncomfortably Dark. (See here, though you’ll have to scroll a bit: https://www.uncomfortablydark.com/blank-page-5). I also did an interview with Curtis Lawson, for his WYRD TRANSMISSIONS podcast. Admittedly, I was quite nervous for this interview, and could hardly be myself. Still, it was an honor.
I also lost a job this year (at the ‘haunted factory’, where I was a security guard working the graveyard shift — the best writing job one could imagine), as well as quit one of the worst factory jobs I’ve ever had, and am now quite content and grateful to work as a full-time bookseller at a Half-Price Books store in Minnesota.
A week ago, I (stupidly) crashed my car and wound up having to take out a loan to buy a another vehicle, but at least I have reliable transportation once again.
I am wishing friends, family, and fellow readers and writers much fulfillment in the New Year. I’ve included, in addition, my favorite books and films I’ve come across in 2021.
Top 10 books I’ve Read in 2021:
The Complete Stories of Robert Bloch, Vol. 1
Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby
Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque – Joyce Carol Oates
How to Read and Why – Harold Bloom
STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
Shatterday – Harlan Ellison
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
The House on the Borderland – William Hope Hodgson
Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween – Lisa Morton
Top 10 Films Seen in 2021:
The Lighthouse (this has become one of my very favorite films!)
A Streetcar Named Desire
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive (2017 documentary)
Strangers on a Train
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
MATTERS MOST MACABRE, available in kindle, paperback, hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/Matters-Most-Macabre-Tylor-James-ebook/dp/B08Z7LM8TZ#:~:text=Matters%20Most%20Macabre%20is%20a,just%20plain%20weird%20you%20out!