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December 31st, 2009

The strangest year of my life

Yep, there is no other way to sum up 2009. Incomprehensible, exhilarating, grim, schizophrenic, joyous, and lunatic all combine to equal something simply strange.

The good adjectives are derived from the writing side of my life. I achieved one major goal in 2009, and that was to demonstrate to the world that I can write fiction longer than 5,000 words. Both the novella The Lucid Dreaming (thanks again to Roy and Liz and Cesar and Zach!) and the novelette "Diana and the Goong-si" (the latter from the Midnight Walk anthology) scored rave reviews and wonderful feedback. And I made my first novel sale by placing The Castle of Los Angeles with a press I'm really happy to be associated with, Gray Friar (where I'm in the company of fine writers like Conrad Williams and Nicholas Royle). I'm also thrilled that Gray Friar agreed to move Castle's release to 2010, so it didn't get lost in the year-end shuffle.

My four-year-long agent hunt came to an end in September, and signing with Bob Fleck for representation was certainly one of the year's triumphs.

I also kept up the short fiction end with my second appearance in Cemetery Dance, with a story ("The Devil Came to Mamie's on Hallowe'en") that I feel is one of my best. It was nice to see a review over at Dark Scribe echoing that sentiment. I'm also quite satisfied with "Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest" from the Steve Jones zombie book The Dead That Walk. Another story I wrote at Steve's request this year (for a hush-hush project - hopefully more details soon) proved to be the hardest piece of fiction I've ever written, but in the end I think it was worth it.

Non-fiction-wise, my fourth book with McFarland, Savage Detours: The Life and Work of Ann Savage, debuted rather quietly in December, suffering slightly from that end-of-year rush that Castle managed to avoid. I was also happy, though, to win my second Bram Stoker Award, this time in non-fiction, for A Hallowe'en Anthology.

And speaking of Stoker Awards...organizing the June event in Burbank ate my life for half the year. In the end, I was very pleased with how well it turned out, but I'm not sure I could do it again. The other wonderful thing to come out of the Stoker Weekend was the bond it created between my co-organizer John Little and I; being able to call John a close friend is one of the best non-writing things to emerge from 2009.

But otherwise...the year was frequently a nightmare for me personally.

My mother's health deteriorated a great deal, and has generated a lot of stress. I've always been very close to her, and always accepted that I would care for her one day...but her health has spiraled off in directions I never could have anticipated, and that have often left me feeling sucker-punched. Battling her retinue of doctors has been fun, and I've dealt with everything from ineffectual diagnoses to apathy to prescriptions that I thought veered perilously close to malpractice and even fraud. There's a chance for improvement in 2010, but at this point I am resigned to spending much of my future checking prescriptions and doctors and diet, and worrying about her. John Little isn't my only close new friend from 2009 - anxiety and I have become well acquainted on several levels.

And I seem to be surrounded by friends going through even worse crises. My God, no one should have to endure arguing with an insurance company about the surgery their 3-year-old son needs to live, and yet my good friends the Palisanos spent much of December doing just that (and have become models of patience and perseverance to me in the process). At least three friends have begun very messy divorces this year. And my day job has exploded into a run-as-fast-as-you-can gig, which frequently leaves me so exhausted at the end of eight hours that I can only stagger home and collapse. I see no end in sight; so much for all those reports about the death of the printed book.

2009 has left me tired and gloomy, but ready to fight the good fight in 2010. I still have a wonderful partner, three four-legged companions, a circle of friends to count on, and my hometown of L.A. I'm looking forward to exploring a new direction or two writing-wise in 2010, and hope the year will bring a few unexpected (good) surprises. I think it might.