ConFusion was a strange experience this year, in some ways. I didn’t bring my camera. I only did one panel, along with a reading and the group autographing. I didn’t even wear the fancy author jacket. I just showed up in my T-shirt and jeans and mostly just hung out.
This was also the first time I’d brought my son along. It was fun getting to spend the weekend with him. I know he got a bit bored when I’d get caught up talking to all of my grown-up friends, but I think he had a good time. He attended a few panels on his own, went swimming, did some art stuff, played Pokemon Go with me and Suzanne Church … and at the end, he said he wanted to come back again next year.
One of the best parts for me — really, the primary reason I wanted to go — was seeing people again. This was my first convention in more than a year.
One of the most frustrating parts — as it always is — was not having enough time with everyone.
Lots of people asked how I was doing, or expressed condolences, or said they didn’t know what to say, or gave me a hug… and it all helped. It all made me feel cared about and less alone with everything I’ve been through in the past year and a half. Thank you all for that.
And then I came back home and spent an hour shoveling snow and ice so I could get my car into the garage.
Back home, and back to the routine. It’s almost five months now since Amy died. Fourteen months since she started getting sick. The sadness and the loneliness and the emptiness are all still very much there, but I’ve been feeling more functional. I’m continuing to do what I can to take care of myself and the kids. And to paraphrase my therapist, there’s a bit of confidence that I can do this. I don’t like it, and it’s a hell of a lot harder, but I’m managing.
I was even able to break through the last part of the outline on Terminal Peace and get back to writing the ending this week.
I’ve done a fair amount of reading about grief and being a widower and single parent, trying to be proactive about self-care and caring for the kids. Some of the changes I’ve made in the past months…
- Exercise – I’ve been doing this pretty much since Amy got sick. I think it’s a coping mechanism. But as long as I don’t get obsessive about it, it’s a healthy one. (Side note: No less than three people last week commented that I looked (or felt) like I’d been working out. That was unexpected, but nice.)
- Game night – I’ve got a group of gaming friends, and we never manage to get together to do stuff. Well, I herded those cats into a monthly get-together, because I need more social interaction and escape. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep that going.
- Therapy – I started back with my therapist, and have also been attending a weekly support group for parents who’ve lost a partner. It helps me to stay in touch with the grief and keep working through it, and to make sure I’m continuing to take active steps to manage everything the best I can.
- Asking for Help – I recruited my father to take my son to one of his weekly things. It’s only one night a week, but it frees up a couple hours of my time, and it’s a little less stress on my shoulders. (I need to keep working on this one…)
- Saying Yes to Social Stuff – As much as I can, if someone invites me to lunch or a movie or whatever, I’m trying to say yes. Even if I’m not always feeling super-social. It helps me to get out and stay connected with other people. (I need to get more proactive about initiating this stuff.)
- Letting Myself Grieve – Sometimes the grief just hits. It happened at work a couple weeks back, triggered by a conversation about hospitals. It happened Saturday afternoon at the con, and I have no idea what cause it that time. Rather than trying to keep the pain locked away, I try to let it just happen. Let myself be sad. Let myself miss her. Let myself cry, if it happens. It hurts, but there’s a sense of release to it, and I’m more functional afterward.
So to answer the most frequently asked question of the weekend, I’m doing okay. Not great — it’s probably going to take a while to reach great — but okay. It hurts, but I feel like I’m getting closer to acceptance of what my life looks like now.
I think Amy would be proud of how her husband and kids are holding up and working through things.
After more than a year away from the convention scene, I’ll be at ConFusion in Novi this weekend. My schedule is relatively light, which is probably for the best:
- 10 a.m. – Evolving Visions of Toxic Masculinity (with Jason Sanford, Marsalis, Kameron Hurley, and Brandon O’Brien)
- 3 p.m. – Mass Autographing
- 7 p.m. – Reading (with Cherie Priest and Anthony W. Eichenlaub)
My son is coming with my this year. I’ll probably be splitting my free time between catching up with all of my SF/F friends and showing him around the convention. My main goal is just for both of us to have a fun, relatively laid-back time. And of course, to catch up on more than a year’s worth of hugs from everyone!
Went back to Eclectic Art on Friday to get the next round of work done on the tattoo. James had done the linework and initial shading at the beginning of December. This time, he started adding color.
It’s hard to say if this hurt more than before. Some of the thicker lines in December felt like pretty deep scratches. None of the coloring was that sharp, but he had to go over the same patch of skin again and again to get it all filled in, which wasn’t pleasant. And as I understand it, the needles are different for color and shading — more like a broad (but still very small) paintbrush made of needles, as opposed to the pen-tip style needle(s) for the lines.
None of it was too bad. But it was enough I couldn’t just doze off and take a nap 🙂
He set up a much more colorful palette this time, focusing on the colors for the grass and the dragon.
I paid a bit more attention to the tattoo gun this time. I’m fascinated by how it looks like a steampunked fountain pen. There are no ink cartridges or anything. He just dips into the color(s) he wants, mixing and blending as needed.
He started in on the dragon. At first, I couldn’t really see where he was going with some of his color choices. And it’s hard to watch someone painting your arm. So mostly I just laid there and played games on the phone.
Unfortunately, we had to cut things a little short. He had some family stuff come up, which I can understand. We’re going to try to do a longer session at the end of the month, but it’s possible we might need to do a fourth to finish everything.
Here’s what my arm looked like at the end of three hours of coloring. (This is the pic I shared on Twitter and Facebook.)
I’m really happy with how it looks so far, but there’s a lot left to go. The tree will be getting watercolor-style foliage, and then there’s the moon and the night sky, along with finishing the dragon’s wings and the book and other little details.
But I love the colors and the lighting effects and the way the grass turned out and the shading… All of which makes me impatient to go back and get the rest done!
Aftercare is pretty much the same as before. There’s more oozing and seepage this time. Things look a bit gross underneath the bandage (a clear, breathable “tape” that covers the new tattoo, which is essentially an open wound). I debated sharing a picture, but nobody needs to see that. Let’s just say the grass looks more like mud now.
The one downside, aside from my impatience about wanting to finish, is that I need to avoid some of my exercise routine for a bit until it heals more. I may skip karate tomorrow night, too. Knowing my luck, somebody would decide it was the perfect night to punch me right in the arm…
As some of you know, my kids and I skipped town and went to northern California for a week over the Christmas holiday. In part, it was because we’d never been. Mostly, it was because we weren’t up for being here and trying to have a “normal” Christmas.
Aside from our almost-yearly trips to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this was the first real vacation we’d taken in … well, pretty much as long as I can remember. We’ve had a few weekend trips here and there, but not many, and not in years.
Looking back, I think I tried to squeeze in too many destinations. Next time, I’ll plan on slowing down and spending a little more time. But overall, I’m calling it a success. We all had some good experiences and some “wow” moments. My daughter got to see sea lions. My son got to pet lots of new dogs. I got to visit the Charles M. Schulz museum 🙂
For anyone who hasn’t seen the pics on Facebook, I’ve posted the California album over on Flickr as well.
We drove from the airport to Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa to Yosemite to Folsom to a different airport. There were whales and elephant seals and mountains and redwoods. We spent about half the time with some close family friends — family in all but blood, essentially.
I had plenty of moments of sadness, thinking about how much Amy would have loved this, and how I wished we’d done it when she was alive and healthy. But I also know she’d have been happy to see me and the kids getting some enjoyment and wonder. Especially the kids.
That was the best part for me, too. Seeing genuine joy and wonder and happiness from the kids — especially my daughter. I know they were hurting sometimes too, having some of the same grief and pain and regret I was, but I think the majority of our time was positive and good for us all.
And now it’s 2020. My son starts school on Monday. My daughter and I have both started back to work again. I opened up Terminal Peace and did a few hundred words tonight before a blood sugar crash ended that. (I’m fine. But dang, this disease is annoying.) Most of the time, the New Year seems pretty arbitrary and meaningless, but this year, I do have more of a sense of … not renewal or a new beginning, exactly, but a sense of starting to let go of a little of the pain and trauma of 2019.
Who knows if that will continue. Grief doesn’t just stop. I’ll never stop missing her or wishing she was still with us. But there’s hope that this year will be better — at least for our family. (I’m not gonna weigh in on events in the larger world quite yet. Son of a crap…)
For those who celebrate, I hope the holidays were good to you. And for all of us, I hope 2020 is a much better year.
Welcome to 2020, and may it be better than 2019 for all of us!
I’ve been doing an annual write-up of my author income each year since 2007, as a kind of reality-check against the myth that we’re all super-wealthy and earning Stephen King-level royalty checks.
As many of you already know, 2019 was the worst year of my life. We spent most of the year helping my wife Amy fight cancer, and the last few months trying to cope with her loss. As a result, I got pretty much zero writing done.
Unexpected crises, health-related and others, are a part of life. And my guess is most authors — most freelancers and self-employed folks in general — will sooner or later hit a year where life razes their plans and salts the earth where those plans once grew.
Here’s what that looked like for me, financially speaking.
My Background: I’m a primarily “traditionally published,” U.S.-based SF/F author with 14 books in print from major New York publishers. The first of those books came out from DAW in 2006. I’ve also sold about 50 short stories. I’ve never hit the NYT or USA Today bestseller lists, but my last five books have been lead titles for my publisher. In late 2015, I mostly-quit my full-time day job, switching to 10-15 hours/week for the State of Michigan, and spending the rest of my time writing and as stay-at-home Dad.
In 2019, most of that time and energy went to caretaking for my wife.
2019 Summary: The original plan for 2019 was to finish Terminal Peace and hopefully sell some new books to DAW. My agent was also shopping around two finished middle grade projects.
Neither of those middle grade projects sold. As for Terminal Peace, I stopped writing at all for a while in 2019, and have only gotten back to it in the past couple of months. I’m about halfway through the first draft, making progress, but at a slower pace than before.
As a result, I had no 2019 income from anything new. It was all royalties and payments on already-sold projects.
Before taxes and expenses, but after any agent commissions, I made $13,811.78 from my writing in 2019.
Here’s the annual income graph going back to 2002.
2019 Breakdown: Most of the novel money was from the portion of the advance that came with the hardcover publication of Terminal Uprising. The rest was royalties from the books that have earned out their advances (Goblins, Princesses, and I believe the first two Magic ex Libris books).
I didn’t have any new self-published work in 2019, so it’s nice to see that all those little monthly checks added up to four figures.
- Novels (U.S. editions): $9551.54
- Novels (Non-U.S. editions): $1215.45
- Self-Published: $1285.56
- Short fiction: $237.08
- Audio: $900.84
- Other: $621.31
Other Notes: If all goes well, 2020 should see things turn around a bit. I’m hoping to get Terminal Peace done and turned in, and to finally sell something new to DAW. That should be a nice boost, and get me back toward my “normal” writing path.
But honestly, it’s nice to realize I’ve produced and published enough that even when I have such an awful and unproductive year, my work still generates enough income to help support my family. That feels like a real payoff and reward from a quarter-century of working to be a writer.
As always, I hope this is helpful. Feel free to share the post and to ask any questions. I can’t promise to answer everything, but I’ll do my best.
Friday will bring honor to us all.
- Holiday Goals: Steven Newland’s smoke-breathing Godzilla Christmas tree
- Chris Porsz’s dog pics!
- Cat Snapchats