2021 – Year in Review!!

I asked on Twitter if I should do a year in review and was surprised to see folks convey interest in wanting me to do a wrap up!

Well, to those who wanted it – here we go! For those who didn’t – jog on and all!

Where to start?

Let’s begin with… hmmm… the personal life!

How about we start with the “bigger” trips.

Personal Life:

As with all of us, COVID-19 has put a dampener on attending things, going places and doing activities. We decided this year to not really look into booking anything major, but to find things that we could do and enjoy that would have a solid chance of not being cancelled, while allowing us to be safe.

For Easter, we went out to B.C. to visit with my sister, brother-in-law and my two nephews. They are a pretty self-contained group, so we all agreed to make sure everyone was healthy before we went. It was a blast and it was great seeing Grandma Helena in Castlegar as well.

When July rolled around, we got to do something that had been previously cancelled due to Covid. Back in 2020, we’d booked a trip to Drumheller and Calgary. We wanted to surprise Auryn, as the last time we’d been to Drumheller, Amanda was about 7 months pregnant with Auryn! But, alas, right after I booked everything, Covid hit and we had to cancel.

So, in July, we went out to Discovery Wildlife Park near Innisfail. We’d been before and Auryn was so excited to see the animals again. What he didn’t know was that we were going to drive from there to Drumheller after. He was suspicious as we drove, but soon fell asleep. Then, when we came around a corner and the sign that says ‘Welcome to Drumheller’ appeared with a big dino beside it, he was over the moon! He called it Dino-Town the entire time we were there (and still asks when we’re going back). He also didn’t know that we had another surprise for him – my sister, brother in law and two nephews met us there!

discovery

We went to the World’s Largest Dinosaur and then the following day we went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. It is such a cool place to visit. When we were there, we started to go around it a second time, when things flashed and the power went out! We were plunged into darkness and it made for a memorable moment that Auryn still talks about! This trip also happened to coincide with my 40th birthday, so that was a fun way to celebrate getting SOOOOO MUCH OLDER!

A little over a month later, Auryn’s 5th birthday arrived and to celebrate that, we went down to Calgary to do the second half of our previously cancelled plans. We went to the Calgary Zoo, which was fantastic. We go to our Zoo all the time and Auryn loves animals so much, so it was great to go to a different Zoo and learn about more animals and the roles Zoo’s can play in conservation.

So, that was the bigger trips we took. But we also did a ton of fun, local things!

We have a Zoo membership to the Edmonton Valley Zoo and go frequently throughout the year. I’d estimate this year we went at least a dozen times, if not more. This also included their Halloween event and Zoominescence, when the Zoo is lit up for Christmas!

As well, we have a membership to Jurassic Forest, a really cool place about 45 minutes north of us near Gibbons. It’s a neat place with animatronic dinosaurs and a boardwalk that weaves through it. We get there 5-6 times each year and it was great to see them add a few new cool dino’s before the season ended.

Also, my mother in law and father in law got a new seasonal camping lot, near Wandering River. If you’ve read my novel ‘The Stranger,’ you’ll recognize that name as the one character. But Wandering River is a real place, roughly 2.5 hours north of us. We got up there a few times to camp, which was great. Auryn got to meet a new friend who shared his love of all things Godzilla and we got to get out into nature even more.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Edmonton has a ton of green spaces and walking areas, especially throughout the river valley, but it is also nice to leave the city and visit places such as Clifford E. Lee Nature Conservatory and Chickakoo Lake.

In July, we went to the very cool ‘Expedition Dinosaur’ Exhibit at our Telus World of Science. It was really fun and Auryn has a blast with all things dino!

In August, we did something that we hadn’t done in A LONG LONG time. This was planned as part of Auryn’s Birthday Celebration, and on August 28th we went to a theatre in St. Albert to watch the Paw Patrol Movie. Auryn wasn’t too fond of how loud it was, but once we got over that hump, he had a blast!

paw

And in September – Auryn started Kindergarten! It has taken some time, but he finally does love school and has made a ton of friends! I love getting to hear about how each day was.

The last thing I’ll mention, is this year, on March 21st, our beloved dog, OJ passed away. We adopted OJ when he was two. Back then, my wife and I were confident we’d never have children. We’d been told previously we couldn’t and we were fine with that. OJ came to us at the perfect time. He was such an adorable, loveable chrome-dome from day one and we helped him through all of his quirks and fears (he had a lot!). For those who know already, you’ll be aware of what happened, but for those who don’t – about a year after we got OJ, he suffered a spinal stroke. One night, he grew super restless. We quickly saw that he couldn’t use his back legs. We rushed him to an emergency vet clinic and after an MRI he was diagnosed with FCE – Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. This occurs when a section of the spine ‘dies’ or is impaired. With OJ, it meant he lost function in his back legs and he was bed ridden for a week with a catheter. We started Aqua Therapy with him as soon as the catheter was out and roughly six weeks after starting therapy he was starting to walk on his own again.

Sadly, this injury was a huge strain on ‘Mr. Old Man.’ His body aged rapidly and on the morning of March 21st, my wife and I both knew that he couldn’t go on and that he didn’t want to go on.

Our lives are certainly emptier without him in it. Auryn loved his dog so much, and we still talk about OJ all of the time. The plan is to adopt another bully in the spring, once the winter weather leaves and we can spend plenty of time with our new fur pup outside.

Book Promo:

I’m going to call this next section – Book Promo. This isn’t about my releases at all, but about what I did that was above and beyond regular reading and reviewing.

So, let’s go alllll the way back to February.

On February 17th, my interview with the amazing Adam Nevill went live on Kendall Reviews. The response was out of this world. I couldn’t believe it. It was a wonderful interview, with Adam delivering some top-notch and thorough answers. I can’t thank him enough.

{Interview} Taking Back Control: Steve Stred talks to the brilliant Adam Nevill.

A month later, on March 17th, my interview with Ronald Malfi went live. Ronald is a super nice guy and a phenomenal writer, so it was great to pick his brain about ‘Come With Me.’

{Interview} With a brand new novel ‘Come With Me’ out in July via Titan Books, Author Ronald Malfi talks to Steve Stred.

On May 5th, I was able to tick off a bucket list highlight, and I interviewed Andrew Pyper live on Instagram. I had started the year off with doing Pyper Previews, where every Tuesday, I’d post about one of his books, the different versions of them etc and share about each book. For the previous three years I’d done a ‘Pyper-May-Nia’ celebration of his work in May, so the Pyper Preview’s all led up to this interview. Of course, me being a knob, I didn’t figure out how to save the video… (But more on that later!)

On July 28th, I was able to attend my first ‘Author’s Night’ as an author, not a spectator, when I was one of four authors featured at Daisy Chain Book Store. This was a really great event, where we each did a brief reading of our work, answered questions and got to sign some copies.

August 17th saw the launch of something I was really excited to share and it was something I’d been working on behind the scenes for some time. It began as something I was doing on my own, researching and collecting links/releases etc of all of Andrew Pyper’s work. I finally worked up enough courage to directly ask him if I could officially launch an archive of his work, and he kindly said yes. So, on August 17th, 2021, The Official Andrew Pyper Archives launched. As a super fan, I’m very proud of the research and information available, as well as the links etc that allow you to go back and learn about the writing of the books. You can visit that site here – theandrewpyperarchives.ca

As part of launching the archives (and partly due to my dumbassery with the Instagram live video), Andrew agreed to do another interview, but this time I was going to do it through Youtube and record it. To make sure I didn’t mess up, I wanted to interview somebody before hand, which led me to asking my friend, editor and co-author of The Navajo Nightmare, David Sodergren, if he’d be up to be interviewed as a guinea pig.

On August 31st, I bombarded him with ruthless and brutal questions, which he volleyed back like the veteran he is!

And that led to me sitting down and formally interviewing Andrew Pyper for the second time on September 28th (I’m so sorry, Andrew!). This was an almost two hour chat about his career, books, writing and the archives itself. This was a very candid interview and like the first one, truly an honor.

Writing:

On the writing front, I would say the highlight was seeing my novella ‘The Window In the Ground’ appear on the HWA Bram Stoker Award’s Preliminary Ballot for ‘Long Fiction.’ Blown away that it made it to that level and really something I’ll always cherish. I don’t write for any other reason than the joy of writing, but when something gets recognized, that’s always so very cool.

Workshops:

I’ve never attended any writing workshops before. I did take Creative Writing electives in High School and College, but that was about the extent of my writing ‘education.’

That changed, when I saw that an author whose work I love dearly (Hint Hint Andrew Pyper) was announced as hosting a virtual workshop on the art of crafting an idea into a novel and then pitching that novel. On March 6th, I attended the workshop and not only was it a blast and gave me some insight into how Andrew creates his novels (which for a super fan was amazing!), but it helped me in a number of ways. It had me rethink my approach to writing, as well as helped me work through three novels that I was struggling to connect the dots in a few spots. One of those (Mastodon) has been announced already, which I’ll discuss about more in a bit and the other two I’ll share info about as well.

Podcasts:

I had the pleasure of appearing on four different podcasts this year. I typically try and limit my podcast availability as I work very hard to keep my writing stuff to my breaks and lunch time at work, but I do get a few weekend ones in each year (which has convinced David Sodergren that I live in my vehicle).

Staring Into the Abyss;

https://staringintotheabyss.libsyn.com/the-navajo-nightmare

Ross Jeffery and Kev Harrison;

Dark Between Pages;

Joseph Sale;

My appearances are available for patrons;

https://www.patreon.com/themindflayer

Releases:

Much like most years since I started really focusing on writing, 2021 was a busy year for myself for releases.

Up first – ‘The Future In the Sky.’ This was released on March 1st, and is part one of the Empyrean Saga. This novella tells the story of Lizzie, living on a ship that orbits the Earth. Classes are chosen for either Salvation or Eradication. Eradication is straightforward. Salvation on the other hand… The students have to jump from the ship, plunge towards the surface of the planet and try and catch an orb that is launched towards them, an orb that contains their future within.

The Future In the Sky cover

Universal Link;

mybook.to/futuresky

My second release of the year was the novel ‘The Navajo Nightmare’ which was co-written with David Sodergren. David and I had written the early drafts of this back in 2020 when Covid hit and we were stuck at home for some time. This was such a fun Horror-Western mashup that focused on vengeance and stopping an evil entity.

navajo

Universal Link;

mybook.to/navajonightmare

Following ‘Navajo,’ I finished up the Father of Lies Series. On June 1st, the third chapter in the series released with the novella ‘Sacrament’ finishing the Trilogy. On July 21st, I released the omnibus ‘Father of Lies: The Complete Series’ which had a foreword from the talented Sonora Taylor, all three novella’s, a bonus novelette, an essay from cover artist Mason McDonald and an extended essay from myself discussing the writing of the series!

Sacrament Universal Link;

Sacrament Cover

mybook.to/sacrament

Father of Lies The Complete Series Cover

Father of Lies: The Complete Series Universal Link;

mybook.to/fatheroflies

My final, “official” release of 2021 was the novel ‘Incarnate.’ Incarnate was a blast to write and followed a family in the late 70’s as they went to stay at a supposed haunted house, only to discover that it is instead possessed by a demonic entity. People seem to really be digging this one!

incarnate

Universal Link;

mybook.to/Incarnate2

Now, I said final “official” release because, as most of you may have seen, I’ve announced my next novel, which is arriving January 28th, 2022. It is up for ebook pre-order now and features an amazing cover by the talented Francois Vaillancourt. This one was a book I wrote originally in 2020 during my time at home, but became stuck in a few place. The workshop I attended unstuck it, haha! ‘Mastodon’ follows our main character, as he hikes into the Canadian Rockies to try and find his father.

Mastodon - eBook - hires copy

Universal Link;

mybook.to/mastodon

Anthologies:

2021 was also a busy year for anthology involvement. I was more focused on my own writing, so didn’t submit too many stories, but was very kindly invited to a number of releases, which I made sure to carve out time to submit.

April 7th, saw the release of the anthology ‘He Has Stayed Too Long.’ This was a massive undertaking by Don Gillette, where he had 30 people band together to each write a chapter and make a single story. I had a blast with my chapter, and I think more people should check this one out.

July 25th, I had a story released in The Ruby edition of Kevin J. Kennedy’s ongoing ‘Horror Collection’ series. I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of my stories selected, so it was nice to be in a release of his once again.

October 3rd, saw the release of A.A. Medina’s short story collection ‘God Forbid.’ A.A. amazingly reached out and asked if I’d write a foreword for it. No brainer. Medina is a great author and a fantastic cover designer.

On October 27th, the third edition of the Books of Horror Community Anthology was released. Two editions were actually released due to the volume of stories, and my story featured in the first part, aka the ‘black’ edition.

November was a busy month, with two anthologies out that I was lucky enough to feature in.

The first was another Kevin J. Kennedy anthology, this time it was ‘The Best of Indie Horror: Christmas Edition.’ This released on November 15th.

And, just 15 days later, on November 30th, the stunning anthology ‘A Silent Dystopia’ was released. This anthology features stories set in the world created by Dave Jeffery and his ‘A Quiet Apocalypse’ series.

Alright, so we’ve got to this point.

Let’s finish this off with what I’m working on, or Work In Progress.

WIP;

As many of you know, I’m always on the go with different projects in various forms of completion.

At the time of writing this, I’ll be shutting down the writing for the rest of 2021, other than posting some reviews, but otherwise – here’s what I’m immediately working on.

  • Mastodon. I mean this is a given haha! Preorders are already open. This will be available in ebook, paperback and hardcover.
  • Books 2 and 3 in the Empyrean Saga. Books 2 and 3 are ‘done.’ I’m working on 4 and 5 and want to make sure continuity lines up so that everything makes sense and there are no odd story issues. I’m still on the fence about whether I’ll release books 2 and 3 together, individually in different months or if I’ll actually just release books 2-5 all at one time so people can blast through this series.
  • 456 Blatchford Drive. A novel I’ve been working on for some time, I’ve finally made some plotting progress and will be working on finishing this off in January and February. If all goes to plan, I would expect this to arrive in the summer. We’ll see. At one point I was thinking of doing this as an extremely limited release, as in 10 hardcovers and 20 paperbacks total. Still like the intrigue of that.
  • Cathedral of the Skinned. The second book in the Sermons of Sorrow series, this would be the sequel to Piece of Me, but not a direct sequel. It would pick up roughly 500 years after the events of book one, but would be heavily influenced by it. I like dark fantasy/horror mashups and this one had some struggles. But now things are flowing and I’m ready to get this completed.
  • Untitled Novel. I have an untitled novel that I’ve finished working on. At the moment, I’m not wanting to reveal the title, or the synopsis, but let’s just say, it’s super dark, bleak and takes place in the woods in the snow. Lol. You’re welcome. I actually hope to have this one out next year as well.
  • Wagon Buddy 3 – I teased this a little bit, but I have been casually working on cobbling together the parts to a third Wagon Buddy story. I’m not going to share too much, but if you’ve followed Scott’s journey up to this point – there are still things left unexplored. If anything, this would arrive in 2023.
  • Anthology story – this one’s a fun one and set in somebody else’s world. Four of us have come together to have a blast and write these stories and I’m sure hoping this works out and see’s the light of day.

There we go. Phew. That’s a lot eh? In the past, I’d also share what my top albums etc of the year were, but this year I listened to very few albums as I was focused on writing and re-listening to the same album or songs on repeat, that I can’t really suggest even a top ten!

I’ll close here. To anyone who has read this Year in Review this far – thank you. I hope 2022 fills you with happiness, joy and we begin to see some solid light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Until we meet again,

Steve

2 thoughts on “2021 – Year in Review!!

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