Once again, you’ve been… a year.
On the one hand, it feels like I barely even know you… like our time together flew by in a matter of hours. On the other, I remember events like the Olympics, which happened roughly ten months ago but feel like they could have taken place last century. Time, as ever, is broken, and yet here we are, saying goodbye.
You were a year of endings and new beginnings, of proxy wars and mid-term elections, social media takeovers, looming recessions, and sporting events occurring under the shadow of oppression.
Which is to say that you were a lot like every other year, of late. Tragedy and triumph and comedy and hope all at once.
But anyone can gather that much just from reading or watching the news. On a personal and professional level, you brought commercial success, new friends and experiences, and even the occasional trip to exotic1 locales. I’ve learned a lot in our time together. I’ve made some mistakes, but also survived those mistakes to live and write another day. And as we say goodbye, I do so with gratitude for those lessons learned along the way.
As for your successor? Well, who can say what it will bring, or when, or why. I’m going to take my cues from a meme that has been circulating on social media as of late and leave 2023 alone for now, with the understanding that doing literally anything else might very well trigger some sort of primordial curse.
The Year That Was
In January, I was still riding high from the release of One Tin Soldier, my first ever five-figure month as an author, and reviews that were blissfully positive, despite the fact that I’d zigged with that final book in the trilogy when so many expected me to zag.
In March, I released The Italian Screwjob, the last of the ‘pre-written’ John Smith books and a veritable brick of a book that even now moonlights in its physical form as a paper weight, door stop, and dumbbell. And again, the reviews were good! Like One Tin Soldier, it was the best reviewed book in its series, and while its release didn’t quite reach those same commercial heights, I was still very much on an upward trajectory that I couldn’t have imagined two years earlier.
Also in March, my angel-wife and I decided to build a new house… and that’s when you started to go off the rails just a bit, 2022.
But first, we released the audiobook for One Tin Soldier in May. Joe2, absolutely crushed it, bringing a pathos to my words3 that has to be heard to be believed. Audiobook sales went through the roof for a solid five months. Like the print and digital book, the audiobook remains by far the best reviewed and rated of the series.
In May, as fears of a depressed economy continued to rise, we opted to put our current home on the market a year early, even though renting a house until the new one was built4 wasn’t on our short list of fun things to do. As it turned out, we were already too late at that point… the market in Las Vegas crashed within days of our listing going live, and two thousand miles away, the Federal Reserve had begun a near-unprecedented raising of interest rates, one that would adds hundreds and then thousands of dollars to an already risky future mortgage.
In June, we saw my favorite band, Stars, live in Concert at Belly Up in San Diego, and loved every minute of it.
In July, we finally pulled the plug on the whole thing, taking our house off the market, calling it quits with the new home build, and saying goodbye to our deposit and beautiful 3d renderings. It was the right move to make, especially as interest rates have continued to rise, but also the difficult acknowledgment of a gamble that, this time, hadn’t paid off5. Also that month, I realized that the second book I had planned to write and release simply wasn’t working out, and that if I didn’t pivot, I wouldn’t have anything for the planned fall release either. So, I tabled the book I’d written 25k words for6, and moved on. July was not a good month!
In August, we celebrated my angel-wife’s birthday, and I got to experience Napa for the first time, loving every moment of it. I also started to notice a real downturn in sales around that point, perhaps in connection with the sputtering economy, perhaps because I hadn’t released any new books in ~6 months, and perhaps because I’d, against all indie advice, opted to end my best selling series at three books instead of dragging it out to twenty-seven. Covid came and went, and life continued on.
In September, I finally got started on the book that was supposed to serve as a palate cleanser between The Murder of Crows and the (currently untitled) next trilogy in the post-Break world, The Queen of Smiles. As I said in my Author’s Note, it was meant to be a quick and dirty story of revenge that delved a little bit more deeply into one of the side characters of the original trilogy. And that’s mostly what it ended up being, but the path to getting there was neither straight nor smooth. My angel-wife had the joy of talking me down off the ledge all too many times over the next two months of writing, as I struggled with piecing together the internalized progression and character development that the book needed to be more than just two inches deep. A podcast interview I’d recorded earlier in the year was also released, and while I still haven’t listened to it, those who did have kindly told me I didn’t come off like a complete raving lunatic.
In November, we attended our first writing conference here in Vegas, met with literal thousands of other indie authors, learned a ton, and gained some new friends in the process. For reasons known only to my increasingly erratic brain, I decided it would be a good idea to release a digital boxed set of The Murder of Crows in the middle of that conference, with The Queen of Smiles set to release a week later. Needless to say, November was a busy month! The boxed set has been a slow seller, but it’s really just there for those who want the whole series in a single file (or as a single borrow on their Kindle Unlimited shelves), and to give me a better RoI target for eventual Facebook ads. Meanwhile, The Queen of Smiles has done very well critically, and somewhat less well, commercially. I was in the black by the end of the first week, but rather than lifting sales to new heights7, the release really just returned me to what had been standard monthly numbers in the first half of the year.
In December, we took a second vacation, this time for my birthday, and enjoyed the beauty of Cancun8. And when we came back, I got to work on the free short story I’d been promising people all year… a Damian-focused story set toward the end of One Tin Soldier that ended up becoming Only the Dead Remain. I haven’t gotten a ton of feedback on the story, but it’s been downloaded several hundred times, and I hope it made for a nice, if small, Christmas gift to everyone!
I guess what I’m saying, 2022, is that you’ve been a bit of a mixed bag. You were, by far, my most commercially successful year as an author, but ended with a downturn I hadn’t been expecting. You started off with a bang and ended with a single character standing in the midst of his own zombie apocalypse, but in between, you brought me lots of new experiences, good and bad, and that is what life is about. Every new book I write is in some ways a response to those I’ve already written and the same holds true with every year we live. I’ve learned a ton this year and I’m grateful for those lessons, for the good that you’ve brought to my life, and for twelve more months with the woman I fell in love with more than twenty-seven years ago.
I’m also happy to say goodbye, because time moves ever onward, and judging by this past half-decade, it won’t be long before I’m writing a letter like this to your successor.
So goodbye 2022, best of luck to you wherever you go next, and thank you.
In early January, I’ll be back with my goals for the Year That Shall Not Be Named. Because what could go wrong (again)? In the meantime, Happy New Year, everyone!
- And not so exotic!
- Joseph Vernon, Rennaissance man, voice of the post-Break world, and co-owner and proprietor of the best B&B in Hudson, New York
- And especially that ending!
- And moving twice in less than ten months!
- In Vegas? Who would have thought?
- Three times!
- As each prior release has done.
- My first visit, but probably not my last!