that was the year that was


2019 was a crazy-ass motherfucking year.

There were many high points. For one thing, this was a calendar year in which three novels, two of which I’d been working on for quite some time, all came out: Mermaid Precinct, a horse-choking six years after Gryphon Precinct and two years after I did the Kickstarter for it; A Furnace Sealed, debuting a new urban fantasy series that I first started working on in 2011; and Alien: Isolation, a very nifty tie-in novel that I’m quite pleased with.

I also had six short stories out in six different anthologies. I started and ended the year with stories in anthologies edited or co-edited by Michael A. Ventrella and published by Fantastic Books, and taking place in the “Precinct” universe: “The Midwinter of Our Discontent” in Release the Virgins! and “Used to Be” in Across the Universe. Between them I had a Cassie Zukav story in Unearthed called “Rán for Your Life,” debuted the character of Connie de la Vega in two science fiction stories, “The Silent Dust” in Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals & Gizmos and “The Puzzle” in Footprints in the Stars, and wrote a pulp tale in Thrilling Adventure Yarns entitled “Alien Invasion of Earth!”

But the nonfiction went through the roof, mostly thanks to contributions to I wrote a lot about pop culture for that web site, starting with the weekly “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch,” which hit some of the most popular movies in this particular pantheon, covering Phases 2 and 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the DC Extended Universe in between, and lots of other films from the popular (Deadpool, Kingsman) to the obscure (the 1940s Dick Tracy short films, the two Prince Valiant movies) to the embarrassingly awful (R.I.P.D., Cowboys and Aliens). I also reviewed every episode of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery as they were released, ditto the second batch of Short Treks, and also wrote about the MCU (two pieces on Avengers: Endgame and one on Tom Holland’s Spider-Man), reviewed the first seasons of The Boys and The Umbrella Academy, did a post-mortem on Marvel’s Netflix series, and reviewed the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind. On top of that, I had an essay in the latest Outside In collection, this one on the “Darla” episode of Angel, and the Batman quote book I assembled was released by Insight Editions. Cha cha cha.

On top of that, while I haven’t always kept up as well as I might, the content on Patreon has continued to chug out, from weekly excerpts from my works in progress to TV and movie reviews to vignettes featuring my original characters to a metric buttload of cat pictures.

I also went to more cons than I’ve ever been to in a single calendar year, thanks to the good graces of Bard’s Tower adding to my already-busy convention schedule. With three new books out, this was a useful thing, and my royalties on A Furnace Sealed and the Precinct books are reflecting my hand-selling books at shows. I’m looking very much forward to doing more with the tower in 2020, in addition to all my other con gigs (I’ve got at least two GoH gigs to cons I’ve never been to before this coming year).

Financially, the year was a bit up and down. Wrenn got a gig that paid her well for a while, and that same source will provide a lot more income in 2020, but it wasn’t as much as we were hoping for in 2019. My serialized game tie-in fiction was supposed to have kicked into high gear this year, but we’re still stuck in first gear on it as we work the kinks out. With luck, 2020 will be the year it pays off (since it certainly wasn’t 2019, sigh).

In general, I seem to have mucked up my time-management skills something awful. Part of it is balancing karate teaching, conventions, and the nonfiction for Tor with the fiction writing, and I’m not always successful. Part of it is stress, over the shitty state of the country, over the shitty state of our economy, and over the financial stuff I mentioned above, exacerbated by the fact that I’ve spent the 2010s working twice as hard as I did in the 2000s but making half the money I did then. Part of it is I turned 50 this year, and everything seems to be slower than it used to be.

Speaking of that, it was a milestone year: I turned 50. It’s also the 25th anniversary of my fiction writing career (my first short story was published in 1994), the 15th anniversary of my being a karateka (I first walked into the dojo as an out-of-shape white belt in September 2004), and the 10th anniversary of me and Wrenn as a couple (we started dating in June 2009 after spending a lot of time together at Balticon that year).

Personally, things remain wonderful. There are people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like (one person in particular), and I need to fix that in 2020. My family is generally doing well — lots of physical issues that come with age, but they’re being managed decently. (Well, okay, there was the one person who fractured her hip, but she’s recovering from that quite well.)

No matter what ups and downs my personal and professional life have, I always take heart in the fact that I have the greatest friends, the greatest family, and the greatest fans in the world. On a delightfully regular basis I’ll see a comment online or get an e-mail or meet someone at a convention whose life has been touched in some way by my work — usually it’s just getting some enjoyment from reading, but that’s the business I’m in, so it’s nice to get the affirmation. In fact, one of the first things I’ll be doing in the new year is appearing on a Star Trek podcast to talk about my 2009 novel A Singular Destiny.

There’s lots of nifty stuff on the docket in 2020. My collaboration with David Sherman, To Hell and Regroup, the third book in David’s “18th Race” trilogy, will be released in the spring, the game tie-ins should kick in to high gear (cross fingers), I plan to work on both the sequel to A Furnace Sealed and on Phoenix Precinct, I’ve got a new regular gig for once the superhero movie rewatch catches up to real time in mid-January, and I’ll be reviewing Star Trek: Picard season one and Discovery season three when they’re released. I also have to write the two stories I crowdfunded, “The Gorvangin Rampages” and “Ragnarok and a Hard Place” (which, by the way, you can totally still support if you want). There’s going to be a big karate tournament this summer that I will be involved with as a judge, as a participant, and as a helper which should be really excellent when it happens. And I will continue to be teaching three days a week to kids, my two afterschool programs and the kids fighting class at the dojo.

Tonight we’re off to New Jersey to ring in the new year with some of our dearest friends. There will be gift exchanges, there will be food and fermented fluids, there will be celebrating, and there will be joy and happiness. As it should be.

Happy new year, everyone!


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