2011 – Happy New Year

Let’s get the elephant out of the way and spout the obvious cliche’. If you had told me, one year ago, that I would be reading five-star reviews of my own writing on Amazon, I would have rolled my eyes and coughed out a sardonic laugh. I’m still amazed by the developments of the year on a daily basis.

I’m beginning to believe that every year, for everyone, is crazy in some way. That’s good. That’s life. That’s how we look back over our time on this Earth and see the patterns of our existence. The difference is: was life crazy in a good way, a bad way, or a blend of both? For most of us, it’s definitely the blend. Then the question becomes: when everything is measured on balance, did we make progress, fall back, or run around in the same crazy circles?

For me, this year was definitely positive in objective, measurable ways. It moved. Most years, I have to chock it up to a learning experience, but this year went well beyond simply gathering life experience. I wrote a story and learned more about writing than the previous 43 years combined. In the process, I found a calling that feels more satisfying than all the other creative acts before. I made some friends and shockingly, some fans. I signed my first autograph. I received a metric ton of support and feedback from a great many people and discovered a new focus for gratitude. If I slice off writing from everything else that happened in 2011, the year is an automatic win.

Beyond the writing, there is a whole gaggle of positives from 2011. I won’t embarrass my wife beyond thanking her for supporting me and proofreading my work in a genre that does nothing for her. She’s a non-fiction Jersey girl. She is also a remarkably smart, beautiful, and generous woman. Thanks to my bad influence, she has become a skillful practitioner of the fine art of sarcasm, which is a good defense against a “funny or tragic” world. Perhaps most importantly, she actually enjoys my cartoon voice performances of our dogs’ most inner thoughts. OK, I lied about not embarrassing her.

All is not rosy for the year. We lost a great friend to Alzheimers and then death. We lost another to a move back east. We watched out house fail to sell so that we can follow in the eastward direction, where our family lives. We had some conflict with a few folks, notably the family of our lost friend and the man who shall be ever known as “chainsaw neighbor” although using the word “neighbor” gives him too much credit. Hope the big brown Lab managed to puncture the head of Elke the Border/Jack Jussel mix on numerous occasions, but in every case, Elke had it coming. She can be terribly annoying to the other dogs (while utterly charming to people). In one bizarre reversal Elke managed to win a fight and left Hope with some leg wounds that healed quickly and well.

On the canine positive side, there’s Luna, our born-deaf Aussie. You wouldn’t know she’s deaf unless you watched carefully. She’s not only highly functional, she’s practically in charge. More to the point, she is the full-on happiest dog I’ve ever known. She manages to pour joy all over the house, even when she’s in the middle of a commando raid on the kitchen counter. Hunter, our oldest boy, showed up late last year with a malignant tumor on his front leg. I can happily report that this battle with doggie cancer has been won. He is in good shape and seems to operate with a high level of contentment for a dog who is basically afraid of his own shadow. Jay, the second youngest of the pack, follows in the tradition of male dogs in our house and seems to sort the world based on how scary every experience is. This year, he has learned some confidence and how to play without worry. In fact, he now insists on play every day. I confess to occasionally throwing him off guard by wearing a large set of headphones, which to Jay means that aliens are attacking. So, we’ve managed to raise the bar on the spoiled dog scale until they all spend the vast majority of their time feeling entirely too satisfied with life.

“I eat. I get treats. I sleep on the mama’s lap while she watches TV. I play frisbee and fetch and wrestle with the daddy. Life is good. Now, if I could just get rid of those two fuzzy bitches, sh*t would be perfect.” — Hope

Sorry, Hope has a foul mouth.

Although I’m already running close to the “too much information” mark, I did want to say one thing. In the grand scheme of things, 2011 has brought me closer to a feeling of rightness with the world (and in this world, that’s saying something) than I’ve felt for a long time, and in large part, I have you to thank for it. My closely held hope is that this year has been just as positive for you as it has for me.

For 2012, now just eight hours away on the West Coast, I’ve made no resolutions. Resolutions are those things that last until roughly January 17th. Just ask any gym manager. I have made some commitments to myself… Promises. First up is to get Decay out. Then Promise ( the novel, not the commitment). Then I’ll probably take a break from the Breakdown for a while for a couple of non-apocalypse stories that are shouting loudly in my head. Beyond that, I have another apocalypse cooking in the old brain, something entirely different, based on another direction our society is taking. And depending on what happens with the Breakdown trilogy, there’s always the possibility of  a return to the world of Renewal. My mental dance card is pretty full, and I hope to spend 2012 shuffling my typing fingers in time to the rhythm.

For all of you, I offer my profound thanks and my best wishes for two things. One is that you all find happiness and fulfillment in the new year, and two is that my Renewal version of 2012 remains entirely, one hundred percent fictional.

Happy New Year!