Clean Slate?

Ready or not, 2018 is upon us. It’s not so much a clean slate as a continuation of what’s come before, but the end of the year is a good time for reflection.

After that long gauntlet of deadlines I took a lot of time over the last four weeks and did house work, spent time with family, readied for the holidays, read for fun, and wrote some short stories. This morning I stepped back to the long suffering novel and think I’ve finally tweaked an argument at a turning point in the book so it works. It was the last sticking place, I think. I hope to know my editor’s take in just a couple of days.

2017 was a strange beast. There was a lot of personal stress that I won’t go into, but there were a lot of achievements as well, the first being the successful launch of Tales From the Magician’s Skull. I’m delighted to be the magazine’s editor. I spent the majority of the year thoroughly revising one novel — and that entailed rewriting vast portions of it — and then finished writing a second one. I was invited to write for and assemble a collection of World War II stories for a secret project that will shortly be announced, and I did that, and it was a blast. I’d never have thought I could pull that off, much less that I’d have an opportunity to try, but I’m pretty pleased with the result.

That project interfered with my goal of writing a slew of Dabir and Asim stories, but I just managed to write a new one two days before the end of the year. Prior to that I wrote another featuring my sword-and-sorcery character Hanuvar. Hopefully soon more readers will know about him. I’ve a bunch of story outlines and fragments for both Dabir and Asim AND Hanuvar, and it’s my plan eventually to have e-book collections of their adventures. Dabir and Asim short stories, I believe, can be read in any order, but I think the Hanuvar tales are even stronger if they’re read chronologically. I’m planning them like individual episodes of a TV season.

I keep returning to the idea of finishing the third Dabir and Asim novel. Asim’s voice is just so easy for me to hear. It’s not QUITE like the stories write themselves, because I have to put in a lot of effort up front to outline. But once I sit down, they simply flow. I probably shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about that third novel, since the characters aren’t a big money earner, and it’s not as though legions of readers are clamoring for them… but I love writing about them. A strange thing’s happened to me. As I’ve aged I’ve been thinking that the years are finite and that I ought to make sure that whatever I’m writing is the stuff that matters the most to me. And I guess Dabir and Asim do, and that I need to make more time, market be damned. The thought is that if I can get a little ahead with the new series and whatever follows that I can write Dabir and Asim novels on the side and finish out their epic 8-10 novels as I originally planned, self-pubbing them. That’s a big dream and will take a lot of effort and time, and I’m not sure how I’ll fit it in, but I’d sure like to do so.

My son’s been running a fantasy campaign for me and my wife over the holidays, and she’s been playing Dabir and I’ve been playing Asim, and it’s been the most fun I’ve had playing in a tabletop role-playing game in years. It feels an awful lot like a Dabir and Asim adventure and who knows, I might end up writing it up as a novella, with my first born credited as co-plotter. Certainly some of the banter between heroes sounds like it’s right out of one of the tales, and I love how he’s handled the villains and challenges. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that both my wife and son love the characters so much that they want to invest time in their world like this. I’m a fortunate man.

This year my reading’s taken turns I could never have anticipated five or even just two years ago. I think I could count on one hand the number of fantasy novels I read this year. Wait, I think I can count on two fingers. Everything else was either a hardboiled detective novel or a western. Not just any detective novels or westerns, though — lean, fast-paced ones with compelling characters and great twists. Over the holidays I’ve been reading through a library copy of the Big Book of Locked Room mysteries and enjoying it an awful lot. But it’s the westerns that have been getting more and more of my time, and through talking with others and a little exploring I’ve been finding great authors and wonderful tales. I’ve been reading so much lean prose that I have less and less patience for anything that feels bloated or slow paced.

Here on the home front my wife just earned her black belt in Shotokan Karate, so that’s all four of us with one, and I’m very proud of her. But then I’m very proud of her in general and would mention her far more often if I weren’t concerned about her privacy. I’ve been working my up towards my third degree black belt, though it’s still almost three years away. In my twenties, heck, even in my early thirties, I’d never have imagined that martial arts would be an important part of my life, but it sure is now. It helps keep me healthy and fit. Part of the fitness regimen after we do the pre-class stretches isĀ  some calisthenics. When I first started karate, all those years ago, the required 25 pushups could be a challenge. They got to be easy, so this year I’ve upped the number of them. My goal was to get to 50, but I can now regularly do 60 in a single session. A couple of times I got as high as 72, but never made it to 75. That’ll be my goal for 2018. As I learned when I set out to be able to do 50 regularly, you really have to be able to manage ten higher than your goal. So, to regularly hit 75 pushups, I’ll probably have to be able to do 80 – something. I don’t know if I can manage it, but I’ll try!

We’ve added a puppy to the household, and he’s in that awkward stage of dog adolescence where he mostly knows the rules but is testing them all the time… and he still isn’t entirely clear on what he can and cannot destroy. While typing this post I heard some alarming noises from the other room and discovered he was ripping up the edge of the brand new carpet we had over the kitchen tiles. I don’t know if it can be repaired. Ugh. It probably can’t. I’m not looking forward to showing this to my wife…

This year I don’t recall going out of my way to watch any television shows, in particular, and I wasn’t especially excited about any movies, although I know there were some I enjoyed. I’ve continued to enjoy my Sunday solitaire gaming, when I’m not so busy I can’t take the time for it. I quite like the Lock ‘n Load: Tactical games and will probably try to snag all the different parts of the series, because every single one of the scenarios is fun. Each can be played in an hour or so now that I know the rules, and, much like Benedict of Amber, I like seeing how the battle changes with different tactics, so I play each scenario multiple times.

I’ll probably slow down with my war game acquisition in the coming year otherwise, though. There are some that just gather dust, and while I think I’ll get to them eventually, if I add many more that won’t seem feasible. I don’t think I’m on the cusp of becoming a game hoarder, but I see the cusp looming on the horizon, if you see the difference. There are several companies and designers and systems I like, and I’ll probably just stick with them for the future, but mostly play with I’ve already got.

Looking at what lies ahead in 2018, well, my son may not be coming home in the summer if he gets an internship, which will be very strange. I find myself wishing hard for that internship so that he can get the foot in the door in his chosen field of animation, but I find that I’m very sad thinking about him not even being here at all during the summer months. With his junior year of college halfway over I’m coming face-to-face with the realization he’s just about moved out completely and we don’t have much time left for long days of him about the house, brightening the place with his terrible puns and constant piano playing. And of course I have to reconcile myself to the fact that come fall my daughter will probably be heading outside the city for her first semester of college, so that I won’t hear her voice raised in song as she plays the ukulele or be able to joke with her about politics. Both birds will be away from the nest most of the time. I was always told that it happened fast, and I thought that with me working primarily from home I wouldn’t feel it, because I’d see so much of them as they grew.

But it still happened too fast. I’m so very proud of them both and would be talking about them all the time, too, but I always meant for this blog to mostly be about my writing and interests, not private stuff.

The first book of the new series will launch in July, and I’ll be heavily promoting it before that and sitting on pins and needles hoping it succeeds far better than poor Dabir and Asim did. Through the first part of the year I’ll be making minor changes to book one and revising book two, and hopefully have a draft of book three long before 2019. Then I need to choose from several other ideas as to what I’ll write next, and maybe get to finishing the third Dabir and Asim novel, depending upon how far ahead of schedule I feel.

Both issues of Tales From the Magician’s Skull will be out by the middle of the year and with any luck I’ll be reading for future issues.

Hopefully I’ll finally be able to write some more blog posts with my friend Bill Ward, and maybe Chris Hocking and I can resume some Hardboiled Monday posts. There are still a lot of great writers we wanted to cover. It’s me who was the holdup in both instances — I just got too busy with deadlines.

Well, I offer you a tip of the hat if you’ve made it to the end of this rambling post. Thanks for being here. I’ll try to keep you updated with anything interesting as the year wanders on. I hope we all have a good year.

2 Comments on “Clean Slate?

    • +1. Enjoyed the pathfinders, too, but Dabir and Asim, I don’t know… I feel like it really got fantastic history right, which is no small feat.

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