The Devil's Whiplash: My roller coaster of a 2023

A view from a red kayak of a big green mountain with a large waterfall streaming down it
A view of Nugget Falls from Mendenhall Lake

If 2023 were a roller coaster, I'd call it the Devil's Whiplash. Because the ups and downs of my year were rough AF.

Let's start with the ups first. The up most relevant to your interests in my fiction this is that I FINISHED the first manuscript for this series.

Yes! Finished! 🎉🎉🎉

I discovered that, given all the challenges I was juggling, that writing out the first full chunk of Ember's adventure in Philadelphia worked better for my schedule and my sanity than pressuring myself to do chapter by chapter. I finished the chunk at 1 in the morning on Christmas Day. I rewarded myself with a Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild.

So yay! To celebrate, I've posted some fresh chapters in the Beta Reading Portal. I hope you enjoy them. 😁

One thing I've learned from most of my indie publishing friends is that it's pretty necessary to have a good amount of material banked before the official publishing starts. So I will start writing the next chunk of Ember's adventure while sharing these chapters with you. I want to have at least three stops for this series written before I launch.

That manuscript was by far one the greatest ups of the year. Another fantastic up was the whole community of awesome kinky people in North Carolina that I didn't know existed. Like, how have I lived here for so long without knowing all these glorious artsy, queer weirdos that I have in my life now? I was contemplating moving to Pittsburgh in 2022 to be closer to family. But now at the end of 2023, I'm like hell no! These new people in my life are too awesome to leave!

Speaking of family, I have the most adorable nephews in the world and some of the greatest ups on the coaster involved spending time with them. I never knew until this year how much I would actually love watching a cheeky little boy climb in and out of a big toy car five hundred times.

Travel was another glorious up for my year. I went on my very first cruise ever this year to Alaska. The scenery was SO incredible. I spent a lot of my time off the boat kayaking, exploring the ports, and seeing a bunch of beautiful blue glaciers. Every minute off the boat was incredible, even the food. Alaskan salmon really does taste different from the salmon you get in the continental US. Also, I never realized how similar southeast Alaska is to the Pacific Northwest in the US. Did you know Alaska is home to one of the largest rainforests in the world? Surprising, right? Because everyone thinks of polar bears and glaciers when they think of Alaska. Here's a photo of my favorite glacier from the trip.

This is a giant blue glacier next to an even bigger green mountain
Mendenhall Glacier with Mendenhall Lake at the bottom

I'll be honest, I discovered through that adventure that cruises are not for me. Or least cruises on massive ships. Royal Caribbean played loud music ALL THE TIME. Even the "relaxation" room in the spa had techno music blaring in it. I was seriously afraid my massage was going to involve the therapist doing the Can Can on my back. Fortunately, the massage room was one of the few places on the whole ship without music.

There were WAY too many people for me as well. The group I was with was awesome awesome. Everyone else I wanted to throw overboard. I'm definitely not taking a vacation again where I can't escape easily from entitled jerks who drink too much.

Here's a prime example of the type of misbehavior I witnessed: I went on a hike at one of the ports and came across a guy in a uniform standing around with a bigass shotgun (like you do in Alaska). He politely told me the rest of the trail was closed because of bears. I thanked him and started to head back, when another woman and her partner (who were wearing Royal Caribbean badges around their necks) came up. They started arguing with Shotgun Man about the trail being closed. I mean, really? There's a reason he has a SHOTGUN people! The whole thing was so awkward. Fortunately, Shotgun Man stood his ground and spared the bears from choking on these people's poor-ass manners.

My other big travel adventure this year was to Chicago. I went there for a conference and the weather, for once, was glorious and sunny. I have NEVER been to Chicago when the sun is out. I did three boat tours in one day. Look at this skyline? Isn't it so gorgeous? It was truly worth every penny.

You're looking a view of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan with a view of the giant ferris wheel on Navy Pier.
Chicago on a glorious sunny day!

I also went to a really good friend's wedding in Baltimore where I stayed at this weird and gothic boutique hotel called The Ulysses. This is the type of hotel where the suites had HUGE clawfoot tubs in the spot where you think the TV should be because they're (wink, wink) encouraging you to partake in a different type of show.

In between all these amazing ups though, there were some pretty spectacular drops on the Devil's Whiplash too. As many of you already know, I got pretty sick at the beginning of 2023 and had to yeet my gallbladder. That particular drop was at least somewhat plannable though. The others...not so much.

The other drops felt like the roller coaster engineer forgot how physics worked and decided to throw some 90 degree angles into the tracks. There was a lot of drama around my dayjob that took months to resolve. My apartment got invaded by a drug-munching mouse. Oh, and then just as my writing flow was recovering from the day job chaos, both my parents wound up hospitalized in the same week with complications and COVID, and I wound up spending a couple unplanned weeks in New York right before traveling to my biggest work conference of the year.

All those drops were very emotionally draining and were stacked right on top of each other. As a good friend says, the script writers of the universe have a terrible sense of pacing. It's truly a small miracle I managed to get the first chunk of Ember's story done at all this year.

That's a miracle I plan to run with in 2024. This year may ultimately prove to be a roller coaster ride as well (especially because everyone in the United States has at least one HUGE guaranteed drop happening in November). I'm hopeful though that the coaster for this year will have a more reasonable number of hills. I'm looking forward to the solace and joy I will get from writing my kinky vampire stories. And I hope you'll enjoy finding a delightful escape in them too.

(You can escape to them right now if you want. Don't forget new chapters are in the Beta Reading Portal if you want them. 😊)