December 31st, 2021
2021 is going to be a year that I will judge more accurately later in my life. It is certainly going to go down as one of the most important years I’ve lived, but whether that will be in a positive or negative way remains to be seen. Outside of my riskier ventures, 2021 was a year of friendship and personal growth, and for both of those things, I am thankful.
I started 2021 in a difficult position. My parents had recently gone through a divorce that was putting heavy stress on my entire family, some of whom were in very bad financial states due to the pandemic, among other things. Some of them still are, but watching the others claw their way back out of the holes they found themselves in was truly an inspiration for me as I battled my own troubles.
I was on the short list of candidates considered to represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer, and though I will neither confirm nor deny I took part, I can say that the build-up to that competition was the most stressful of my life. Not because of the stage, but because of the sheer number of variables. Uncertainty has always been a point of anxiety for me, and with Canada’s COVID-19 protocols changing more often than overhead cloud formations this year, it was very uncertain if any Canadian athletes would attend the Games at all. Especially once pre-Olympic training camps began being postponed or cancelled every month as things began to grow more and more unclear.
And this is where writing ties in because this year, I found out that trying to take writing more seriously whilst being a professional athlete is incredibly difficult. It was one thing in 2020 when the number of competitions was low and when writing was a hobby. When I truly began seeking improvements and dedicating startling amounts of time to achieving them, it really became difficult. Balancing four epic-length fanfictions plus beginning to lay the groundwork for an epic-fantasy series probably didn’t make that process any easier, nor did the sheer amount of travel I partook in between April and September. There were months during that stretch when writing 10,000 words became a challenge — this coming from the man who made a habit of writing chapters that long last fall and winter.
It really began to make me question myself. Not just my abilities in both fields, but my desires and long-term goals. That was very difficult for me. I have always been an extremely clinical thinker who likes to have a relatively rigid plan for the future. 2020 chipped away at that mentality with the unpredictable outbreak of COVID-19, but this dilemma of mine in 2021 threatened to shatter it altogether. Shredding my knee back in March and having to work through it for the next six months really started putting things into perspective for me. That was extremely difficult. Not only was it painful, but it required hours and hours of physical therapy on top of training, travel, and competing to ensure I stayed as healthy as possible. There were other injuries too — damage to both my shoulder and my Achilles’ tendon comes to mind — but it all began to blur for me when I truly considered things.
I was fortunate enough to have writing really take off this year and, with the help of my incredible Patreon community, I actually started making real money in the field. Soon enough, I was making as much money writing as I was running, and that was slightly problematic. Not because I was ungrateful for either field, but because it really hit me that I was making just as much money writing as I was for destroying my body every day.
I have an entire blog post dedicated to my decision to choose writing over athletics, so I won’t rehash all of that here. [Click here to read that blog post.] Suffice to say I decided doing both at a level I would be happy with had grown nearly impossible and that writing seemed the obvious route going forward both for my happiness and for my future. That was probably the single hardest decision I’ve ever made, but so far, it has been an excellent one. I have managed to write far more consistently and as a result, I have both improved mightily as a writer and watched my monthly income rise, which is important if I want to do this full time; especially until I publish my first real novel.
All of the struggling this year taught me many things about myself. The decision between career paths, in particular, was genuinely a defining moment in my life. Having gotten past that, I can honestly say I feel changed for the better and am happier now than ever.
When looking at this year from a writing standpoint, it was a smashing success. I wrapped up the behemoth that was Ashes of Chaos Year 2, I’ve written 100,000+ words for Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons whilst watching that fic’s popularity surge, and I’ve published the first two books of what I think is my finest story to date: Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity. Throw in a couple one-shots, plus a 30,000-word short story, and I think it’s safe to say that I have had a productive year.
Yet all of that is only scratching the surface. I talked about personal growth earlier and that is true most of all in my writing. I can hardly believe the stuff I wrote early in this year was written by me — the contrast is that stark. I’m actually slowly going through and revising Fabric of Fate — which involves a whole lot of cutting — as a practice exercise and it is baffling to think that it was written not all that long ago. I have never once claimed to be an incredible writer, nor did I ever claim to be an incredible athlete. I truly believe my gift is the capacity to learn things at a rate few can match. I would like to think that has been very prevalent in my writing this past year.
Most exciting of all for me, I began laying the groundwork for my first novel this year. It is an epic-fantasy story set in a secondary world that I envision as being the first story in a seven book series. Not only do I have the series roughly outlined and not only am I working out fine details every passing day, but I have actually begun the ‘drafting process’ for the book. The reason I call it that is because I have taken the philosophy of writing most of these chapters at least twice. I’ll write them the first time to get the plot and character points down and then later — closer to the book’s conclusion — I will go back, work in details that have been put together as the book came along, and clean up the prose and all the rest. I imagine I will also have reached new heights as a writer by the time this process concludes, so I am not nearly naïve enough to think the drafts I have now will resemble the final product in anything beyond its skeleton. Regardless, having almost 40,000 words drafted is a very encouraging start and a huge milestone for me. We shall see what 2022 brings on that front and it is a point I will touch on again a bit later.
I know I mentioned it earlier, but I would be remiss to speak of my writing this past year without touching on the incredible community I have somehow managed to stumble into. The Discord server has almost doubled in size — something that I can hardly believe. There are so many of you wonderful people now that keeping track occasionally becomes difficult — though I do my absolute best to keep up with as much as I can. And then, of course, there is my Patreon community, whose existence I can hardly put into words. My following on that platform has more than tripled this year, a fact that almost renders me speechless. It is truly difficult to believe what that has become in the span of a year and I can only thank each and every person who supports me on that platform for quite literally changing my life.
Before I talk about the year to come, I want to take some time to talk about something even more important to me than writing — that being the friendships I have forged this year.
This one’s difficult to structure, but not starting this by talking about Athena would just be wrong. We were friends at the year’s beginning, but my god, I could never have imagined how far that relationship would come. Not only has Athena taken over both my mod and editing teams, but she has gone from a new friend to one of the closest I’ve ever had. She is anything you could ever want in a best friend and so much more. Never have I met anyone so unconditionally supportive in everything I do. You guys see it on the administrative side, but I can assure you she is just as devoted a friend as she is a worker. From little things like becoming knowledgeable in things I care about after having no background in them at all, to bigger things like supporting me through all the struggles of this year, I will never be able to thank her for everything she has done. We went from periodic conversations to spending hours and hours talking every single day. We went from online acquaintances to trusted friends who share more with each other than not.
[Editor’s note: Nothing I could say here to that could be as good of a response as Ace deserves, but it’s a two way street. Throughout this year, Ace has supported me more than anyone else and he is truly family to me now. — Athena]
Then there’s Regress and 3CP. It is still mind-blowing to me that the three of us only began speaking regularly near the end of 2020. Really, it was Perversion of Purity and their part in aiding me with that story that brought the three of us together. That group has since become so, so much more than that. All of my friends provide me with different things, even if there is some overlap. When I just want to have fun and forget any troubles I may have, this duo are the people I turn to. We joke often about how similar the three of us are, but it has allowed us to bond in ways that I have rarely experienced before. I think I can safely say none of us are the trusting type, so to have formed such a deep and meaningful dynamic so quickly is nothing short of astonishing. I lost count months and months ago of the bleak days these two helped lighten and though none of us are overly sentimental, I will admit that both of them have been extremely important in my life this year and have been exactly what I needed more often than they realize. They are both the prototypical best friend that everyone needs and for that, I am beyond grateful.
And, of course, there is Lily. We started the year as acquaintances before she decided to go mental and put forth the biggest Patreon pledge I have ever had. It was not that pledge that won her such high regard with me — that was all her and everything she is. My dynamic with Lily is by far the hardest to quantify and even explaining it at all is difficult. Like the others, Lily offers me things no one else does. She has an innate ability to lift my moods without effort and I don’t think she realizes how valuable that has been. Talking with her has just always been easy and our friendship has flourished as a result. There is just an odd chemistry there that is difficult to explain. Not once have we squabbled, not once have we argued — it’s just been a safe, steady dynamic I can always fall back on in times of need. Whether I need a lift in my mood, a second, objective opinion, or for someone smarter than me to pick apart my ideas and tell me everything I’ve done wrong, Lily is there, ready, and willing. She is one of the most endearing people I have ever met and I can now say that our dynamic has come full-circle and that she really is a darling whose friendship I treasure.
This list of people could go on, and on, and on, but I don’t want this blog to turn into a novella. I will shout out my entire mod team for their tireless work and, in particular, Dragon, Darkling, Lily, Αἴκα, and Reggie for volunteering to join its ranks this past year. It is a difficult job, but you have all done incredibly well in the position and I cannot thank you enough for taking it. Sothis, too, deserves a mention for her help on the website along with her status as a mod; as do all of my editors/betas — Athena, Luq, Fezzik, Sothis, Reggie, 3CP, and Yoshi — for helping as much as they have this past year. I do not pay any of these people anything and a part of me wonders when they will cease being so unconditionally supportive, but over and over again, they continue to blow me away.
I’ve done a lot of talking about the year that was, but I think it would be prudent to look ahead at the year to come.
My biggest goal in 2022 from a writing standpoint is to make real headway on my novel. The most difficult thing about this is finding time to dedicate here whilst maintaining consistent output for patrons. How I think I’m going to handle this is by promising patrons at least two chapters every single week — though three would be the ideal number and the goal I strive to reach — but at least two. That ensures they have consistent content coming at all times and that they stay ahead of both Discord as well as FFN/AO3, but it also allows me to work on my original fiction — something I have struggled a little bit with in recent times. Keeping output up for patrons comes first, though, as they are the ones supporting me at the moment. That’s why in addition to those chapters, they will be receiving early access to all podcasts once that gets up and running. It has taken a little bit longer than I had initially planned due to the end of this year being very hectic, but that is a project I fully intend on starting this year. That will make up an additional upload for patrons each week and I have some other ideas I’m bouncing around as well. To summarize all of this, I am going to spend more time this year working on my original novel, but I am going to make very sure patrons do not suffer any consequences as a result.
As for the novel itself, I would like to reach the point by the end of 2022 at which I have 200,000 words drafted for a novel that I expect to be between 200,000 and 300,000 words. That would put me in position to both finish drafting the novel and to begin revising, refining, and rewriting parts of it in 2023, but that will only be possible if I can put consistent work into that story this year. I don’t doubt that this will be a balancing act of sorts, but I think it’s one I will adapt to and refine as the months tick by.
In terms of what all readers can expect this year, there is much on the horizon. Ashes of Chaos year 3 should be wrapped up in the first half of the year, something I am quite excited for. I will warn everyone now who isn’t a patron that there will be a long break between years 3 and 4. I will be working on year 4 and posting what I write on Patreon, but that progress will be slow for some time.
Ashes is extremely demanding, so I plan to take a half-break of sorts to work on other projects while still progressing that story at a slower pace. Again, I hope to wrap up at least the writing of year 3 by the middle of the year, but don’t expect to see anything Ashes of Chaos-related after that until some time in 2023 if you’re not a patron. Not only am I going to take year 4 slow, but I plan to get a lot more of year 4 done than I had of year 3 by the time I start posting for non-patrons. Patrons will still get chapters on a frequent basis, just not a large number of them.
I suppose the next logical step would be to give a preview of Conjoining of Paragons plans this year. Patrons should see the story’s first year wrap up relatively soon. The major arc that will see the year to its end will be starting up in a couple chapters and I think you will have all of it within the next few months. Unlike Ashes, I do not plan to take a meaningful break between years of CoP. Perhaps a month or two just to make sure my outline is firmly in place, but nothing beyond that. The story’s second year will be its last — discounting the epilogue — so ensuring that everything is neatly planned will be of the utmost importance. I will say for this story that it truly ends with the epilogue. The ending of the chapter before will be… deceiving in some sense, so this story’s epilogue will be anything but a throwaway and will be genuinely integral. I’m not convinced I will reach that point of the story in 2022, though ideally, I will be relatively close. Non-patrons can hopefully expect biweekly uploads for the entirety of 2022. At worst, there may be a slight delay between in-story school years, but I don’t currently plan for there to be.
As for Perversion of Purity, the year will begin on a bit of a down since — by the time this blog is posted — my Discord readers will have read the second year’s conclusion and my FFN readers will only be two chapters away from that same point. I can’t say how long the pause between years will be in this story. Not nearly as long as Ashes, I can certainly promise that much. The story will definitely begin uploading again by the time AoC’s third year concludes, but I hope to have it posting before that. Patrons already have the first five chapters of book 3 and, by the time 2022 is done, I expect they will have read at least a chunk of book 4.
Finally, we have Fabric of Fate. I have an entire blog post dedicated to the near future of this story that I strongly recommend its followers read. [Click here to read that blog post.] I won’t spend too many words rehashing that here, but I hope to have season II fully posted by 2022’s conclusion. I plan to start work on that very soon if I haven’t already by the time this blog goes out. The interludes between seasons are currently being posted at a biweekly rate in hopes that I won’t need to pause between the final interlude and the start of season II. I still intend to avoid any breaks in posting, but we shall see. Any pause wouldn’t be long and I am very confident that all of my interested readers will have consumed this story’s second season by the time I write the next one of these annual updates.
I will also be writing quarterly one-shots for my top-tier patrons. The next one of those — titled Stoking the Fire — will be available on my Patreon page by the time this goes out. It is one of the darkest things I have ever written and it will become publicly available on March 21st. These stories will always become available on the solstice of each season, so you all have that to look forward to as well.
That is a whole lot to balance in a single year — hence the half-break from Ashes of Chaos — but I do hope to manage it admirably. I may take some time as ‘vacation’ throughout the year since most jobs are entitled to that but otherwise, I hope to be consistent. I get asked a lot how I manage it and the answer is simple and twofold — I love to write and, as I have spoken about here at length, I have an incredible support team whom I cannot thank enough, just as I cannot profess my gratitude for all of my readers, Discord members, and especially my patrons. You have all changed my life and for that, I will forever be grateful.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed the holiday season and that you’re as excited for 2022 as I am.
Happy New Year, everyone!