Blank Slate

Here we are, one more year at an end. Social media is full of rewinds and retrospectives, and what sort of blogger would I be if I didn’t add my own? In all honesty, though, I rather enjoy taking a moment to appreciate all the highlights of the past 12 months before diving into the blank slate of a new calendar year.

So, what happened in 2021?

Writer things

  • It’s been a weird year. I’ve been… unsettled, is probably the best description. I’ve been querying my urban fantasy novel to agents, and unsure of what to work on next. Rewrite an older project? Start something new? In the end, I decided to focus on short stories for a while, and now have several I’m very pleased with that are ready for submission in 2022.
  • The NOT ALL MONSTERS anthology (Strangehouse/Rooster Republic Press, 2020), which contains my short story The Sugar Cane Sea, was nominated for the Stoker Awards, which was super exciting! We didn’t win, but it was still awesome to make it that far. 
  • My short story Moon Under Mangroves was published in November in SHADOW ATLAS: DARK LANDSCAPES OF THE AMERICAS. This fully illustrated anthology is beautifully designed and has an amazing list of participating authors. It’s already collected some great praise; the Midwest Book review, for instance, wrote “Think The DaVinci Code or Indiana Jones, but with more literary force.”
  • You can read my interview with SHADOW ATLAS editor Hillary Dodge here.
  • My upbeat take on the apocalypse was published in Krazon Magazine in April; to read my short story The End of All Things for free, click here.
  • I co-directed my first conference! The New England SCBWI Regional Spring Conference took place virtually on the first weekend in May, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Check out my conference recap here.

Fun stuffs

  • Books: I read a total of 64 titles this year, of which 25 were adult fiction, 15 were YA or middle grade, and 24 were graphic novels. Of the total, 44 were from speculative fiction genres/sub-genres.
  • My favorite SF/F books this year: Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars and T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea were probably my top reads. Both are gorgeous, with a warmth and sweetness to them that I hadn’t realized that I badly needed. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab was another favorite, although this one has a bittersweet feel that permeates its beauty with sadness. Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth was a blast, and brash, foul-mouthed Gideon may be one of my new top characters ever. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger deserved all the awards and praise it reaped (also, it’s so nice to see asexual representation in fiction, especially in a main character). And I fell in love with The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards, which I thought was a fabulous bit of urban fantasy. 
  • Movies! Spider-Man: No Way Home was a lot of fun with all its multiverse shenanigans, but my favorite movies this year were The Old Guard (for immortality done right), Black Widow (because Yelena!!! And vests with lots of pockets…), and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (for sheer utter delightfulness and the best on-screen guy/girl friendship I’ve seen in a while).
  • TV shows: This was the year of Marvel, with lots of solid contenders (WandaVision, I’m looking at you), but I have to say that Hawkeye stole my heart. I was already a huge fan of the comic run by Matt Fraction and David Aja, and the fact that the show borrowed so heavily from this source was endlessly delightful. Hailee Steinfeld was an excellent Kate Bishop (I love comics Kate), plus we got more Yelena!!! (Florence Pugh is Just. So. Good.) 
  • As for the rest: The Expanse is still the best live action sci fi around, hands down; The Bad Batch was so good, and I adored their weird family dynamic; Superman and Lois had a solid first season, and I really enjoyed the family focus; Invisible City (Cidade Invisivel) did a nice job of bringing the mythology of my home country Brazil to a wider audience; and Castlevania continues to deliver action-packed storylines and fabulous one-liners. 
  • My top non SF/F show was It’s a Sin, which managed to be at the same time heartwarming and devastating. And for the first time ever I dipped my toes in the yeast-and-sugar-laden waters of The Great British Bake Off (and I confess to being instantly smitten).

Personal bits and pieces

  • This year brought big changes with my oldest leaving for college. Honestly? We’re all still adapting. We’re still working on those university applications, though, this time for our youngest child.
  • My indoor jungle is growing! It may swallow me whole one of these days, so if I don’t check in every now and then, maybe pay me a visit with some pruning shears? Outdoors, this was my first year growing cherry tomatoes, which were a huge success and yielded endlessly.
  • In June and July, when Covid infection rates were lower and the world seemed a safer place, we took two mini breaks, to Newport and Cape Cod, and later to Salem. Lovely family time! We also squeezed in a couple of nights away in Lake George after Christmas, for some much-needed breathing space, despite the cold.
  • We had hoped to travel to Brazil to visit family for Christmas, but Covid… We’re crossing fingers that next year things will be easier for everyone!

Coming in 2022

  • The NESCBWI Spring Conference is at the end of April/start of May. We’re hoping to meet up in person but planning for virtual in case, well, Covid. I’m really excited! Hopefully it’ll all go smoothly.
  • The FEMMES FAE-TALES anthology was delayed by LIFE (Covid *sigh*), but hopefully we’ll be able to publish in 2022. FAE-TALES contains my short story Taste of Honey as well as lots of other fantastic fictional offerings.
  • Writing goals for 2022! I have so many short stories I wrote this year that need revision and to be submitted… And a couple of other long-form projects that I’m going to be mysterious about for now! But I do have ALL THE PLANS for this new year.

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL 2022! Here’s to good health, good times, and good words (for all you writers out there).

Starting Fresh

New year, new dreams, same old Coronavirus. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere just yet, and despite the start of vaccinations here in the USA, there’s a long road to travel before we can begin to meet up in person again. But I can’t help but feel hopeful that there is light ahead, and make plans for an amazing 2021!

Before 2020 is completely over, however, here’s a quick look at what went on in my life…

Writer things

  • Feeling the need to step away from YA for a bit led to writing my first ever adult fantasy novel. I had a blast with it! It’s now at the final revision stage, and feedback has been extremely positive.
  • I had one short story — The Sugar Cane Sea — published in the Not All Monsters anthology (Strangehouse/Rooster Republic Press), a collection of stories by women of horror. The anthology came out in limited run illustrated hardback and paperback versions in April, and in October in regular paperback and e-book versions. It’s already made the Stoker reading list!
  • Another short story has been submitted, accepted, and edited for an upcoming collaborative anthology of women fantasy authors: Femmes Fae-Tales. My story, Taste of Honey, is set here in Connecticut and is about a woman who becomes addicted to nature’s magic.
  • I took part in a roundtable interview organized by Not All Monsters editor Sara Tantlinger —see link on my press page.
  • I managed one Con as panelist and with a reading (Boskone in Boston) before the world shut down.
  • I recorded a video for the Shrewsbury Library in the UK with a short reading from Taste of Honey (see link at bottom of page).
  • I attended a number of online book and writing events and writer meet ups.
  • With all in-person events cancelled, this included our New England SCBWI conference, which we will be doing an online version of in 2021. With everything being moved forward, I’m now co-director of the 2021 and 2022 regional conferences.

Fun stuffs

  • Favorite books this year include Leigh Bardugo’s dark and moody Ninth House and the first two books in Brandon Sanderson’s riveting YA sci fi trilogy, Skyward and Starsight. I thoroughly enjoyed Kin by Snorri Kristjansson, a murder mystery set in Viking times. I’ve also been working through the Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch, and am now up to date with the most recent installment in this excellent urban fantasy series.
  • A couple of movies I loved were Knives Out and Birds of Prey, both of which I missed in movie theaters but caught up with at home. It was a good year for classic musicals, too — we managed to see Jesus Christ Superstar live in Hartford a few weeks before lockdown started, and then Phantom of the Opera (hello, endless earworm loop!) during the Shows Must Go On COVID fundraiser, among others.
  • TV shows! This, of course, was the year of The Mandalorian. But there were plenty of other shows to keep us busy. Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy was overall very good, and I’m slowly making my way through three DC shows: Doom Patrol, Young Justice, and Titans, now that they’re all available on HBO. Speaking of DC, Stargirl was a fun CW release, with a great family dynamic. What We Do in the Shadows was a big hit in our house, and all four of us loved it. Britannia is absolutely bonkers, but my husband and I enjoyed both seasons and are looking forward to the next one. Queer Eye and Nadiya’s Time to Eat were probably my top reality TV feel-good options.

Personal bits and pieces

  • Lockdown meant all four of us (five with the dog!) sharing space all day for most of the year — the kids did return to school for a couple of months, but have been back in full remote learning since then. It took a bit of adjusting, but on the whole things went pretty smoothly, and we are all now pros at Getting Things Done without bothering each other too much.
  • As we were all adapting our workspaces, I took advantage of the flurry of reorganization to move my writing hutch to a brighter (and quieter) spot by my indoor jungle, and have really enjoyed working there. Very inspiring!
  • My father visited in March, and had the misfortune to be here when all borders closed down. It took a lot of last-minute juggling to get him on an early flight back to Brazil, but he made it! Even though his trip got cut short, we still managed a great week together.
  • It’s been a quiet year, for obvious reasons, but we went away for a week in July, up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, for a COVID-appropriate holiday that included lots of fresh air and hikes.
  • My youngest how has her learner’s permit, and my oldest is waiting to hear back from university applications. Having big kids is terrifying!

Coming in 2021

  • I have no Con participation scheduled for 2021, though as co-director, I’ll be putting in an online appearance at the NESCBWI regional spring conference. I miss in-person events! Hopefully, we’ll get back to seeing each other offline at some point…
  • The Femmes Fae-Tales anthology should be out by May, containing my short story Taste of Honey as well as work by a fabulous group of fantastic writers.
  • Writing goals for 2020! I’m hoping to be ready to submit my fantasy novel by the end of January. After that, while I wait for (fingers crossed!) replies, I’m going to do a rewrite of my SF YA novel. I do have several other projects lined up, like a couple of short stories that exist in first draft form and need reworking — one of these is a horror story set in the mangrove swamps of southeastern Brazil that I think will work better as magical realism… But ‘Void’ and ‘Beastie’ are my initial priorities. (Yes, I nickname all my writing projects!)

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL 2021!

Click here for Shrewsbury Library video on the library Facebook page!