It’s that time of year again, the time when relatives we only see at weddings and funerals cram themselves into our homes to argue about politics and religion while some of us slave over a meal that will leave the kitchen trashed, everyone angry at each other, and most of us bored during some dull NFL games in the afternoon. Let us be thankful.
Actually, I am thankful. Life is pretty good for us here at Chateau Nita, and we know that it’s not for many people. We’re relatively healthy, have decent jobs, and our debt is manageable and justifiable: Mortgage, two modest cars, not a lot of consumer debt.
But we’re also well aware that many are struggling. Some problems are of people’s own making. Some are beyond people’s control. So while AJ and I dine on a delicious turkey breast made by Nita, we’re all going to think a little bit about those not doing as well and count our blessings.
Nita and I are middle aged college students. Yes, it took us both twenty years and two marriages to get around to starting our freshman years in college. But off we went. These days, many question whether college is worth it. A lot of schools are for-profit and not really worth the paper they print their degrees on. But Nita goes to the University of Cincinnati. I followed an associates degree in 2012 with a business degree from Wilmington College. We both finish up this summer. Was it wise getting a degree this late in life when we should be working towards retirement? Let’s put it this way. It’s a lot easier to be a hard-to-hire senior if you have a degree than it is if you don’t. And it’s just smart to know how business operates before you actually start a business. Yanno?
I’m thankful I have the opportunity to write. There was a time not so long ago when I planned to hang it up. Holland Bay was an unreadable mess. My agent at the time did not seem engaged. And I’ll be honest. Being unemployed did not exactly foster creativity. So I fired my agent, posted a bunch of “I quit” messages, and planned to worry more about finding work. But a funny thing happens when you decide you don’t hafta. You start to wanna. Holland Bay kept calling my name. A science fiction idea kept calling my name. I went from the guy on the left to becoming a freak of writing nature like Dean Wesley Smith. As all this was happening, the whole indie-vs.-trad argument exploded. What I learned is it doesn’t matter. I do both. Get over it.
But I would not have been able to start writing again if it had not been for some supportive friends. I want to give a shout out to two of them here. The first is Jennette Marie Powell, aka Li’l Sis. Jen and I go way back, like longer than we’ll admit to. (There was no Internet worth mentioning back then outside of the movies.) Jennette was the reason Northcoast Shakedown was written. She became a writer in the late nineties, showed me her first effort, and asked, “So where’s yours?”
Jim goes home, digs out 14-page outline and proceeds to start writing. If she had not said that to me, I wouldn’t have written that novel in time to tell my mother I finished a real novel. I finished Northcoast two months before she died. The revisions took a long time, but that was all part of the process.
Another writer who kept me from throwing it all away is my fellow Sleuthsayer Brian Thornton. I met Brian in my early days online in the Short Mystery Fiction Society, a group we’ve both since left. My first in-person meeting with him was in the lobby of the Bouchercon hotel in Toronto in 2004. I was coming up the escalator when a voice said, “Jim?” I was then treated to a Cuban cigar because, this being Canada, they were legal. (Barry, Raul, you need to fix that problem in the US. Come on, guys. Cuba is America’s fourth largest trading partner. Who are you trying to kid anymore?) In the dozen or so years I’ve known him, we’ve both gotten married, both had novels that took years to write, and both kicked each other’s asses when we wanted to stop and throw it all away. I’m currently one of two people red inking his historical novel Handmaiden of Fate. (The other is actually the lady editing Gypsy’s Kiss.) Brian helped me pound Holland Bay into shape and made introductions to an agent whom I hope will be my agent. It’s been a fruitful friendship.
I am thankful I work. Not only that, but as of this summer, I work strictly in development. The bad ol’ days of desktop support are over. What’s the next step? I don’t know yet. I just found a parking spot I like, and I have yet to attend my first company Christmas party. But now I’m doing more than just helping the little old lady in customer service find her Start button. We have other people who do that. I spend my days writing queries and hieroglyphics that have curly braces and make things happen. It’s e-commerce, which means that, as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to have to log into work to clear off some of the production errors from overnight. Well, someone has to.
Finally, I am thankful for the little miracle to the left here.I met and married Nita in a whirlwind romance in 2008. We’ve been through a lot together since then. It’ll be seven years this coming June. She is my partner and my best friend and the great love of my life.
Because of Nita, I got to experience fatherhood as AJ was 13 when I married his mother. AJ spoils us as parents. We have nieces and nephews whom we love like our own children, but they would also challenge us as parents. AJ is equal parts man-child and very mature and in all the right ways. It’s been wonderful to watch him become an adult. He’s now 20, and we get a little jealous when he goes out and does all the things our parents warned us about, mainly because we don’t have the stamina to stay out that late anymore.
Yes, I’m thankful I have a family. Or rather, they have me. I could list a lot of regrets I have about the first two thirds of my life but why? That last act is shaping up to be pretty awesome.