Commencing Decade Five

I’ll be turning 40 tomorrow, so I figured I’d take a few minutes today to look back at the decades…


Jim - 10Age 10.

I finished up 4th grade and started 5th. I believe this was the year I broke my arm – the only bone I’ve managed to break so far. This would also be around the time I got published for the very first time, with a joke I stole from my grandfather that appeared in our elementary school newsletter.

I was a big fan of G. I. Joe, Transformers, and He-Man. You know – the classics. At that age, I was probably reading a ton of Peanuts and Garfield collections, along with things like the Hardy Boys, The Great Brain, Encyclopedia Brown … I think I had checked out A Wrinkle in Time and a few other SF/F titles by then as well. I remember being excited about seeing Return of the Jedi, though I missed the scene of Vader throwing the Emperor into the random Death Star pit, because the Emperor’s lightning attack on Luke was too scary, and I wasn’t looking. I played my first D&D games, run by a friend’s father. I was a thief, and the only one to survivor our encounter with a dragon, on account of being invisible and hiding while the rest of the party ran out to get fried. I had also joined Cub Scouts (my mother was our den leader), and would have been working on my Webelos badge.


Jim - 20Age 20.

Sophomore/Junior year at Michigan State University, where I was working on a degree in psychology, fully intending to be a counselor or therapist when I grew up. I was in a not-so-great on-again, off-again relationship with a girl at MSU.

This was around the time I began volunteering at the Listening Ear crisis center in East Lansing. I ended up spending a lot of time and energy with those people over the years. I learned a lot and met some amazing people. I had become a full-on geek by this point, very much into SF/F, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. And right around this time, I sat down and started writing out some backstory for my D&D character … which eventually led to me writing a short novel about said character. At which point I realized, Hey, this writing thing is kind of cool. Maybe I should do more of it.

The picture here is of me and my future wife Amy. We had become friends around age 16. We both attended MSU and volunteered at the Ear, too. But it took me another decade or so to figure out I wanted to spend my life with her. Sometimes I can be a bit slow.


Age 30.

I married Amy six months before my 30th birthday. We were living in a house in Lansing. She was finishing up her Masters degree, and I had been working for the state as a computer tech for about three years. My book Goldfish Dreams, a mainstream novel about rape and recovery, inspired in part by my work at Listening Ear, had come out the year before from a little press called Regal Crest Enterprises. I had 15-20 short stories out as well, most of them in smaller markets, but there were a few pro sales in there. Enough for me to join SFWA as an active member, at least. This was also the year my book about a nearsighted goblin named Jig came out from Five Star Press. I alternated between hope and despair that I would ever sell a book to one of the big publishers.

I was also writing a column for the MSU newspaper about sexual assault issues, and working at MSU Safe Place (a domestic violence shelter) as their male outreach coordinator.

I had built up a nice little library of SF/F titles, and was on a mission to get Amy addicted to this show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Jim - 39Age 40.

Okay, technically this picture is from age 39, but it’s close enough. After 10+ years of marriage, Amy and I have two kids, two dogs, two cats … each of us is technically working two jobs, too. We seem to have a thing for twos.

I’ve got nine books in print from DAW, with three more books under contract. I’ve gone from being a clueless newbie at my first conventions to being Guest of Honor at places like Millennicon, Windycon, Penguicon, and Continuum. I got a freaking Hugo award!

I’ve been working to get my depression under control for the past few years with therapy and medication. There are a few other health issues creeping up on me — I’m now taking pills for cholesterol and to regulate my thyroid function. The body still works pretty well overall, though.

On a sadder note, death has become more of a presence in recent years. Two of my high school classmates passed away in the past year. Some of the actors and celebrities I knew growing up have passed as well. I’m also much more aware of cancer and how many of my friends and colleagues it’s affected. Not liking this trend, but I also recognize it’s part of getting older.

I’m still working at the state, though I’ve switched departments, and somehow ended up in a management position. Life is very busy, but for the most part, very satisfying and rewarding as well.


The Future.

I’m fully expecting to enjoy my 40s. There are aspects of getting older I’m not thrilled about, but in general, life has gotten better with age. I’m in a better space emotionally, financially, authorially, familially, and other made-up words like that.

Bring it on, 40!