Hello from the dark side… or the Dark Farm as we like to call it. I’ve been pretty quiet, inactive, lethargic, and depressed over the past few months. A lot of my inactivity was due to the final year of my master’s.

I’ve felt traumatised and full of self-doubt about my ability to write ever since I completed my Masters, even though I passed with distinction.

My final year wasn’t a simple journey. My proposal was for a dissertation into the genre of magic realism, but while the world building for my story maintained my proposal outline, my story, without the background for the examiners to pervade, was an urban fantasy.

When it comes to the creative, usually I have no bounds, but mix that with the academic and it can be torturous for a discovery writer. It takes a complete turnaround to switch from the creative to the academic. So, for the first few weeks of my final three-months, I wrote several papers.

My panic was self-evident, so my supervisor suggested I write about speculative fiction. I took the week and researched the genre, but by the time of our next meeting, my supervisor got to see someone slowly devolving into madness.

I don’t know what I looked like, but my eyes felt as if they were popping out of their sockets, and all the blood had drained from my face. I knew I was running out of time, but the academic side of my self was shut off and I needed to get my exegesis completed.

‘Speculative fiction is just speculating about fiction,’ I kept saying to my supervisor. I was panicking I’d spent a week researching the genre, only to finally understand all it meant was, ‘I speculating about fiction.’

I think I might have dribbled a biut at that moment…

I had a good annotated bibliography, because I’d researched magic realism, speculative fiction, the family, statistics around family, crime, drugs etc. Research into family and the quantitative analysis of relevant data was a huge learning curve I had to grasp within a week.

I did that, then accepted my story was, at its crux, in its entirety, urban fantasy nothing more. Having read over a hundred urban fantasy books during my final year, I was able to condense my research to focus in on a specific trope; a protagonists lack of a paternal figure.

A few years ago I’d read an article or two about the prevalence of absent or dead mother’s in Walt Disney’s films, i.e., Bambi. This brought to mind the absent and dead mother trope in literature. With the information I’d gathered, I performed a study into the prevalence of the trope, specifically in urban fantasy, and how my story subverted that trope.

The final week, I spend 18-hours a day, researching, learning, and writing about new techniques and forms to prove, with that small sample of novels, that the absent and dead mother trope was prevalent in urban fantasy.

On the night of submission, I was exhausted and posted with minutes to spare. The next day I downloaded what I’d uploaded and first read my story. I don’t know if it was because of my exhaustion, or my deterioration into madness, but when I read the story, It read as if there was a section missing. It read as if something was cut out and I’d forgotten to fix it up.

I shut it down, and allowed depression free reign.

I received my final grade, but felt undeserving of it, so hid the certificate away. I took it out every now and then, and put it up, but during the night, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d get up and put it away again.

The Story I wrote, The Book of Matthew, I have worked on, on and off, but like the certificate, it too gets put away. It is only during the night hours that I think about the world I created. Its characters, the dingy streets, and the darker side to life, that I think about working on it. But there’s a small voice in my head that whispers, ‘You’re not good enough.’

So many horrible things happened last year. It began with the death of our little cat, Louise, then an act of suicide by a close family member, a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and the death of my children’s father, where my youngest looked after him all by herself (We live in different states, and her suffering was my suffering).

My daughter suffered two miscarriages and was also diagnosed with precancerous cells on the cervix during that time. She had to undergo a procedure to have them removed while she cared for her dying father, and I couldn’t be there for her. The only way I could help was by phone and Internet, and with all the legal work she’s been left to deal with.

There’s more, which makes it one hell of a year to complete a Master’s degree. The creation process for me, used to be pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and my mind would explode with colour and imagery. Imagination would flow from my mind straight to my fingertips, but only in the night hours does it come anymore.

My master’s certificate is out of the cupboard again; it has been for a week. It’s dusted daily with cat bums and tails, and for those hard to reach places, tongues. I re-downloaded my dissertation two weeks ago to further torture myself, but to my surprise, no part of the story was missing. It was complete and the study into the absent and dead mother trope in urban fantasy, was good.

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