I know this is late again but it’s been a busy few weeks. The holidays, moving into a new house, my wife was sick (just a stomach bug, she’s fine now) and I do get stuck in a winter rut. I’m slowing moving out of it though and strangely for me that means reflecting on 2017.
While last year I went through month by month and gave my thoughts, this year I’m going back to categories. A lot happened for me in 2017 (and the world, which I will touch on) and I don’t want to do each month. I’m not the most political guy but I’d be remiss without talking about Trump a little.
It’s hard to believe he was elected president (and how messed up the American voting system is, he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, that shouldn’t be a win!) and just how far he’s sunk. From insulting Native people, to calling Neo-Nazis good people, to insulting world leaders (and perhaps almost starting a war with North Korea) to most recently insulting whole countries and all the people in the US who came from places like Hatti. I, and all the world, are lucky to still be here after the all the crap he has been up to. Yeah I have strong views and I’m not shying away from them, I even wrote a story about him in my short-story collection (read about it here).
Onto a much more lighthearted topic (I’ll save the worst part of my 2017 for the end). There was a ton of great movies this past year. I’ll just point to my reviews of most of the ones I saw: Split, Logan, Get Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Wonder Woman, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Atomic Blonde, Dunkirk, Spider-man: Homecoming, It, Wind River, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Three Billboards, Justice League and Thor: Ragnarock. I won’t go much into TV, lots of excellent stuff and some great new shows. I am thrilled to have a great Star Trek show back on TV and to have a wonderful parody (which actually like having a 2nd Star Trek show more than anything) to go with it.
I went to two conventions (less than other years but they are expensive and take time, so all I could do). Sci-fi on the Rock continues to be a great success and Avalon Expo (two of many local conventions here in Newfoundland)…well you can read my post but I think it would probably be best if it calls that was the last one.
Every year my friends and I have this role-playing (Dungeons and Dragons type games) weekend, this year was no exception and it was a great time. I also finished my long running 4th Edition campaign and started up a new one using the Eberron setting. Another one I play in (5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons) finished up and we also moved onto another setting. All that said, I find I don’t have the burning desire to RP that I always did. I enjoy more time to myself and as such will have less RP that I did in 2017.
Went on two trips to the US, the first one to Florida (and on a cruise to the Bahamas) and the second one a driving trip (which was unusual for me but I enjoyed it) back from Massachusetts. While some of the days were long driving, it is always fun to go places I have never been before. Portland, Maine, is beautiful, the people are friendly and I had a great time, I would certainly go back there. Bangor, Maine was ok, really didn’t do much there. I have relatives in Massachusetts and I always enjoy going back there. The worst part is the ferry, such a long wait to get on it, crowded and with a tiny room (with no window!). It’s the bad part of living on an island. I didn’t do up a post, so here’s a pic of the world’s largest axe which we saw in New Brunswick on the way back. I was also lucky enough to meet John Dunsworth (of Trailer Park Boys) at a hotel in Nova Scotia, sadly he is no longer with us (I wish I had gotten a pic).
We always travel around the province and this year enjoyed our time (as always) at the Doctor’s House and time in Brigus and Brigus Junction (didn’t make it to Swift Current this past year for fishing, you’ll see why by the end of the post). During the year I read (mostly listened) to 12 books, all of which you can check out my reviews here.
I released my first collection of short stories this year (and deleted chapters from my Newfoundland Vampire series) called “The Chaos Stories: Tales of Magic, Terror, Passion and Blood“. I think it’s my best work to date. Not only do I have a variety of short stories from different genres, I also have stories from other authors (that I’m a group with, Four Phoenixes Publishing) and even a poem. I have a new editor, Heather Reily, and I again went with Kevin Kendall for the art (both are very talented, check them out!).
Also as I have always done (but may take a break from in the future) there was a book launch to support my latest work. I love The Ship Pub, so that’s where it was. I’ll admit I don’t have the time/energy to do all the promo work I did in the past (like appear on radio, here in Newfoundland it still is somewhat popular) and this one was not as well attended as launches before. I still had a great time and it was an interesting reading as my editor helped me out and did it over the phone since she had to take a teaching job away. My good friend Danny introduced me, as he has done for every launch, and I was glad my reading got laughs and applause in the right spots. You can read about it here.
I paid for two blog tours for my book and while I always like the attention (and the reviews), I wonder if they really are worth it. The company did a great job and are always wonderful to deal with, the problem is that it never generates many sales and the only reviews I get are the ones included. I think I’m at a point where I need to be with a publisher again, I do have a few connections left in the publishing world, so 2018 may be the time to use them. I submitted a story to a collection by Engen Books (hopefully it makes the cut) so that could lead to something.
The end of the year (we moved in Christmas Eve) my wife and I finally moved into our new house (not posting the address). I lived on Cherry Lane for 17 years in one house, 18 years in another and about 5 years in yet another. Aside from a brief time when I lived in Grand Falls-Windsor, I was my whole life on the same street. I loved Cherry Lane but it was time for a change. The driveway drove me insane (long driveway in Newfoundland where we get a lot of snow meant 4-6 hours snowplowing some days!).
As you can see it was nuts. So in May of last year we decided to build a new house (for other reasons too, old houses are more work and I had never lived in a new house before). Just something simple like having a drive-in garage in the winter is so wonderful, especially for someone like me who dearly hates winter. None the less, it was a big change for me. It took me a few weeks but I’m very happy here and I’m glad I did it. My privacy is gone but it was a price I was willing to pay and I’m happy to be walking distance my Mom and my only niece.
Death in the family:
Here’s come the bad part, I understand if you want to stop reading. I also said earlier I wasn’t going to share this but it’s public knowledge and I’m at the point where I feel better talking about it. My dad was diagnosed with cancer, Multiple myeloma, about 3 years ago. He spent over a month in hospital while the doctors figured out exactly what was wrong with him and how to treat the condition. It was a shock to the whole family and I thought it was the end for him but I was mistaken. He did chemo, took pills, had lots of doctor visits, took steroids but for the most part was able to carry on with his life and do what he wanted.
Things changed in late April of 2017, he felt terrible, none of the medicine was working anymore and after 3 trips to emergency was finally admitted to hospital. After lots of tests, medicine, fluids and steroids, we saw him improve and we thought it was just another scare, a warning he had to take it easy from now on. He had been give 5 years to live and he was supposed to have a least a couple more years left. You never know that life will through at you though and on Mother’s Day I was there when the doctor have him a month to live. His myeloma had progressed and become plasma cell leukemia. I had to keep it a secret for a while (so he could break it to my mom in his own way) and we started spending as much time with my dad as possible. Both for his sake (to keep him company and because he was becoming very weak and often unable to get out of bed) and because it was extremely likely we had a very small amount of time left to spend with him.
I did everything I could, suggested flying him to Boston, contacted an American doctor who is a world expert, stopped the doctors from putting him in palliative care early and gave him one last chance to get better with aggressive steroid treatment. When his numbers didn’t improve enough for him to leave hospital I knew what was coming and when he did finally go to the Miller Center (palliative care place here in Newfoundland), I knew the end was very near. I’ll spare you the gory details. Just know that watching someone you love slip away day by day, suffering mentally and physically was heartbreaking. The fact that I, or anyone else, couldn’t do much of anything to help made it even worse. My heart broke a little every day and I’ll tell you it was the hardest thing I ever went through in my life. It may sound terrible but having a loved one die quickly may be a shock (my friend had his father die suddenly and we talked about it a lot) but it is much much better for everyone involved than prolonged suffering. It changes you as a person and I think it’s changed me. My dad was a wonderful person and I always wish I had spent more time with him, talked to him more and of course I wished he had lived much longer than 71 years. Its weird how even though most of the time when he was in hospital it was terrible, there were still great moments, laughter, wonderful chats and I’d give anything to have some of those good back.
I can’t end on such a sad note. I’m much better now, I miss my dad and still have upsetting dreams sometimes but I’m happy and looking forward to the future. I spent lots of time with my Mom and am looking forward to going on a trip with her and my wife down south soon. I hope I’m a little wiser and a little more appreciative of the people in my life.
I also do have some practical advice, spend more time with people you love, even if they get on your nerves sometimes. My mom discovered (while digging through all his medical records) after my dad has passed that his condition was a direct result of prolonged exposure to chemicals. My dad had been retired for over 15 years and he never had direct exposure to dangerous chemicals with his job, he was just the kind of guy who never worried about any kind of safety or warnings on labels. Don’t be that person, warnings are there for a reason, you don’t want your life cut short because of something stupid you did 10, 20 or 30 years ago. One day the person you care about won’t be around and you don’t want to be filled with regrets over what you wish you had said or did.
Now I try not to worry so much about the crazy events that go on the world, things that are out of my control. I try to be a better version of myself and bring some happiness to the world. If we all cared more about the planet and the people around, the would would have to be a better place. In terms of small stuff like most people I could lose some weight, get more exercise, eat a little less junk and maybe read more. I’m lucky, though, that none of it is serious and I’ve got the time to do better. I’ll leave you with a line from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien,
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Make the right, careful choices, we only have so much time on this planet and it is truly the greatest gift you could ever receive.