2017 draws to a close…..

2017 was a helluva year. A lot of things in the world were crummy, most of them relating to the gibbering moron currently occupying the White House, but a lot of things in my life were pretty goddamn fantastic. So I’m focusing purely on the pretty goddamn fantastic part.

The two big things, of course, were that Wrenn and I got married in April and I achieved my third-degree black belt in October.

The wedding was, in a word, magnificent. Our dearest friends and family were there, with the only glaring absence an unavoidable one — Wrenn’s brother got critically ill (he was hospitalized with a heart issue — he’s better now), so we had neither her brother nor her father (who was staying with his son). But it was otherwise spectacular. Glenn Hauman was the officiant, everyone looked great, Wrenn in the dress she made for herself (based on an Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun portrait we saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year), me in my shiny new Brooks Brothers suit and Spider-Man tie. The tables were all decorated with geeky pillows that Wrenn made, we had lovely flowers from a local florist, and the whole thing was held at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, one of our absolute favorite restaurants, where they treat us like family. This also meant the food was superb.

The ceremony was the perfect mix of solemn and silly, and a good time was had by all.

We also had a lot of people staying at our new home that weekend, and I loved that we could do that with ease. We’ve settled wonderfully into the new place, with the added bonus this winter of now having a parking spot behind the house! (The first-floor denizens moved out and took all four of their cars with them, so now there’s room for us to put our vehicle and we are no longer subject to the vicissitudes of street parking.) We can accommodate a lot of overnight guests in this place, and over the course of the year we, as is our wont, accommodated many, from folks who crashed here during Toy Fair to folks up for the wedding to various travellers needing a warm bed on a cold night or a cool bed on a hot night. Our landlords love us and renewed our lease without an increase in rent, which was a boon, as it’s right on the edge of what we can afford. But it’s totally worth it. We love it here, we love our new neighborhood, we love being right near my parents, we just love it.

The other big thing that happened was that I achieved my sandan (third-degree black belt) in Kenshikai Karate.

This is no small accomplishment. When I first started at the dojo, we didn’t even have any sandans. At that point, the dojo was only 12 years old, and all the black belts were either shodans or nidans (first- and second-degree). This changed in pretty short order, but even so, counting me and Senpai Charles (who accomplished his sandan alongside me) there are only eight active sandans right now (and two others who are still in touch with the dojo, but only come to special events and things, they don’t really train, one due to being too busy with life and family, the other due to being retired and spending half his time with kids and grandchildren on the other coast).

This is rarefied air, is what I’m saying. There are some martial arts disciplines (not ours, mind you) that don’t even consider you a real black belt until you’re third degree. It’s an honor and a privilege to be at this level, and I’m still kind of shocked at myself. Even after thirteen years of training, even after eight years of being a black belt, even after six years of teaching at least one class a week (and sometimes as many as fifteen), my self-image still doesn’t include me being physically strong and athletic. (Never mind that I’m constantly doing things that involve feats of strength around the house.)

Speaking of teaching, that continued to go well. My two afterschool programs are doing swimmingly, and while my kids fighting class has had lower attendance this past month due to the holidays, it’s still going strong. Plus, Shuseki Shihan Paul had to undergo hip surgery over the summer, and I was one of the black belts assigned to take over teaching duties while he recovered, which included teaching a lot of the kids classes. More impressively, he actually tasked me with teaching the Monday evening black belt class a couple of times, which was quite a surprise — I was still a nidan at this point, and to trust me with a black belt class was a tremendous honor.

The promotion itself was an amazing experience, as I not only got to go up with Senpai Charles — who is a pleasure to train with, a great teacher in his own right, and a fine human being — but also Senpai Dylan going for his junior nidan — Dylan is only a teenager, but he carries himself better than most adults I know, and is a really great kid who is, I think, destined for amazing things — and four women who came up the color-belt ranks together all achieving their shodan together: Senpais Vivian, Helene, Alicia, and Libby.

It was also the 25th anniversary of our dojo, which was cause for lots of celebration, including a nifty workout at Wave Hill and a phenomenal party at which our teacher went from rokudan (sixth-degree) to nanadan (seventh-degree), going from being Shihan Paul to Shuseki Shihan Paul, an honor that was way overdue.

My writing career is going pretty dang well, all things considered. I had a bunch of short stories out this year, and I’m extremely proud of every one:

  • “Identity” in Baker Street Irregulars, the first of what I hope to be many Conan Doyle pastiche stories featuring Shirley Holmes and Jack Watson in modern-day New York City
  • “Deep Background” in Aliens: Bug Hunt
  • “Behind the Wheel” in TV Gods: Summer Programming, the latest tale of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet
  • “Baker’s Dozen,” a Dragon Precinct story that I finally got out to its Kickstarter supporters (and only a couple of years late!)
  • “Sun-Breaker” in Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Homeworlds
  • “Live and on the Scene” in Nights of the Living Dead, an anthology co-edited by George Romero his own self, and the last project he worked on before his tragic death this past summer; being in this anthology was one of the great honors of my career
  • Ganbatte” in Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, a story I’m particularly proud of
  • “House Arrest,” another Dragon Precinct story, was reprinted in The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries

My pop-culture commentary for Tor.com continued and expanded — in addition to concluding both the Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch and Holy Rewatch Batman! I started up “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch,” a weekly look at live-action movies based on superhero comics, and also wrote about Wonder Woman, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher. Plus I’ve been reviewing each episode of Star Trek Discovery as it comes out.

The only actual novel of mine that came out this year was the third book in the “Tales of Asgard” trilogy, Marvel’s Warriors Three: Godhood’s End, released as an eBook, and also included in the omnibus Marvel’s Thor: Tales of Asgard, released at the same time as Thor: Ragnarok and including Marvel’s Thor: Dueling with GiantsMarvel’s Sif: Even Dragons Have Their Endings, and the W3 book.

But I also had three Super City Cops novellas out to start the year, as Orphan Black concluded its five-year run, my companion book, Classified Clone Report, was released by the fine folks at Harper, and I closed the year with a story in MINE!, a comics anthology from ComicMix that benefits Planned Parenthood, which had art by my friend and fellow karateka Tom Daly. Plus I wrote a thriller in collaboration with Munish K. Batra, MD, which is currently with my agent.

To end the year, I started up a Patreon, for which I’m doing weekly TV reviews (so far, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, MacGyver, and The Librarians, with Doctor Who coming up), monthly movie reviews (so far, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), cat pictures, weekly excerpts from my work in progress, monthly vignettes featuring my original characters (so far, a holiday bit featuring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet), and more.

Not everything was perfect — I had one big project fall through, I didn’t actually finish A Furnace Sealed or Mermaid Precinct like I wanted to, I didn’t have time to work on the mystery — but hey, nothing is ever perfect.

Wrenn and I will be ringing in the new year with some of our dearest friends in a night of gift-exchanging, eating, drinking, and being merry.

Happy new year to all!


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