Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For: 2013 Edition

Many of you are probably spending the day eating turkey or spending time with family and friends. As my wife is a nurse and hospitals don't take days off, she's working today as she has on many past holidays, so  the kids and I are holding down the fort on our own. As I have in the past, I offer up a blog for the things I'm thankful for, less because anyone will read it, but more because writing it often helps me remember it.

My Family: Immediate Kin, Friends, and Fellow Horror Peeps

I've been blessed with a wonderful, supportive wife and two beautiful children. We've been blessed with a supportive, giving, caring family. My extended family and my wife may not "get" horror and me writing it, but they get that I love writing, and they've been very supportive of my pursuits. 

Abby's married to a writer. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about how thankful I am for her.

Also, our extended family on both sides has never hesitated to step in and help us in times of need, or simply to be a part of our children's lives.

I'm thankful for a beautiful daughter who is basically a carbon-copy of me. I'm thankful for a bright, precocious, scary-smart, Tasmanian Devil-wild son with a crazy gleam in his blue eyes. Oh, and I'm thankful for his autism, which has taught us the boundless limits of patience, the compassion others are capable of and has served to remind us on more than one occasion what's more important in life.

I don't see my childhood friends as much as I'd like to these days. We've gone our separate ways with our own plans and dreams and families. But I'm thankful for the times we shared together and the memories we forged. In many ways, those memories serve as a bedrock for a good deal of my fiction.

As I detailed in my last post, my horror writing colleagues really have become part of my extended family. I've met so many great people in the past five years, either in RL or online, and I'm grateful for all the support and advice and camaraderie. The publishing and writing goals are important, but I think they'd ultimately be hollow if I didn't have fellow colleagues and friends - my horror family - to share them with. You all mean so much to me, and I can't wait to see you at the next Con, some of you maybe for the first time.

My Childhood

More and more - especially as I see these terrible, wrenching stories in the news about fractured and tormented and hurting families - I'm thankful for my childhood, and the way I was raised. We grew up in the country during simpler times. My father raised us very simply, and our lives had order and structure. Also: we did almost everything as a family. We had traditions and routines, both of which I've tried to give my family. Dad wasn't always so popular - but that's just fine. There are plenty of "popular" or "cool" Dads out there who have failed their wives and children. I'm very thankful that sometimes my Dad came off as mean or "uncool" or "a jerk" because he actually had the temerity to discipline us and teach us right from wrong.  The way I was raised has become the bedrock for my family today.

And I'm thankful for the work ethic my father taught me, mostly by example, by being - then and now - one of the hardest working people I know. This work ethic served me well in high school and college sports (basketball in particular) and it's served me well in pursuing a writing career.

Books and Reading:

Where would I be without them? You could say I'm obsessed with reading and physical books, addicted to them, and you'd be 100% correct. I spend most my free time reading these days, and I'm not ashamed to say that. It made college so much easier, and it has enriched my life. And I have my parents to thank for that. The only whim they ever indulged me in was my love of reading and books, and I try to do the same with my children.

Teaching English

I have this really cool job that basically REQUIRES me to read, all the time. I get to spend every day trying to impress upon teens the value of literature and how it comments on the human experience. 

Every Friday, I run a Creative Writing Club (in the past it's been an elective during the school day), in which we throw all the rules of classroom conduct out the window and spend an hour rapping about writing, the publishing industry, beta-reading and critiquing each others' work. 


And along the way, I get to see kids grow up into fine young men and women. If I couldn't teach, I have no idea what else I'd do. And, I get the summers off, during which I spend time with my kids and write.

What We Have:
We're not rich, by any means. Maybe you could even call us poor. Definitely lower-middle-class, at least. But we have a home that is safe, secure, sound, dry and warm. We aren't lacking for clothes or basic necessities.  

We have plenty of food, and to supplement that we've had a lot of success with our vegetable gardens and berry plants and with me fishing (next winter, I plan on trying my hand at hunting). I've been very fortunate collecting cans and scrap metal to help fund vacations and Cons and Con Family Vacations.


Our cars both run, and when they don't, I have access to father-in-laws who help out this dreamy, useless-as-a-mechanic writer with little or no admonition. We're slowly building up some savings, thanks to my mother-in-law's selfless efforts to help us budget. 

We live in the country. Have a nice backyard surrounded by trees. Have a cool campout area in the woods for Saturday night barbecues.  We have everything we need.

Writing

Somewhere around 8th grade I decided I wanted to be a writer. Not sure how it happened. I read a book I really liked, felt it needed a sequel and started writing the sequel in a spiral-bound MEAD notebook. By my senior year in high school I'd finished writing my first "novel." 

All through college I tinkered with scraps of stories and discarded them. All I wanted was to see my work in print, see my name on a book someday. I wanted to be a published writer. I labored for about ten years on several different things, one of them being an epic space opera that blatantly ripped off both Star Wars and Star Trek and mashed them together. It was rejected by everyone, and should've been.

I am now a published writer. Over the years, my writing goals have matured, changed, become more seasoned and nuanced as I've gained more experience in both writing and navigating the market. 

Recently, I sold my first professional pay rate story which will appear in a collection alongside genre greats like Ramsey Campbell, Mort Castle, Tom Monteleone, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp and David Morell. I'm not finished, though. I have more goals.

But regardless of those goals, in the end, I've achieved what most people only day dream of doing. People have read my work and liked it. And my name is on the cover of something, and that cover is more beautiful than I could've ever imagined possible. I have many more writing goals, but I'm so very thankful for what I've achieved - what I've been BLESSED WITH - so far.

Faith

I'm thankful for my faith in God, which I also attribute to my parents. I've always been very private about this and held my cards close to my chest because I feel like too many people turn their "faith" into stumping points on an agenda. I'll let it all rest on this: all the things I've listed here I thank God for blessing me with: the things and the achievements and the moments and the memories and most importantly, the people. It is also something we're trying to instill in our children as well. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.