Archive for the ‘ New Year ’ Category

2016: Good Riddance

So here we are: December 31, 2016.

It’s not unique nor surprising for me to say that 2016 was a terrible year — the deaths of people my generation idolized, American politics doing a belly-flop straight into a dumpster fire, a cavalcade of wars and horrors and accidents great and small — but I was fairly lucky with 2016 on a personal level.

As I go into the details, CN: anxiety, violence, sexual assault, Tr*mp.

Looking at my Facebook memories, I went into 2016 full of hope and optimism, and ignoring truly horrific world events, that was mostly rewarded; but where it wasn’t, man was it a kick in the teeth. A long-time friend turned out to be a multiple-offense abuser and sexual assailant, and I learned when that came out that several long-term friends had covered up how bad his behavior actually was. When the local gaming community saw a direct action to excise another sexual predator from its midst, a different long-time friend caped for the perpetrator. Two different relatives-in-law turned out to be awful people with awful politics. At least one friend lost a beloved pet; another lost a beloved relative; yet more friends got evicted. We totaled our car right before Christmas Day (everyone is fine; the car took all the abuse).

But the good parts were superb. I celebrated two years of marriage with S., and our relationship is in a fantastic place, even better than where it was in 2015. My health was excellent, to the point where my doctor forgot I was diabetic until I reminded him. I started reviewing comics for The Ace of Geeks, a dream gig if there ever was one. I joined a monthly actual play podcast of one of my favorite indie RPGs (World Wide Wrestling; here’s the website, for those interested). I made new friends who are supportive and kind and interesting, both online and in meatspace, and I maintained and improved several other relationships that I am grateful to have. One of my best friends got engaged. I found joy in a little game called Pokemon Go. I got to see the Sharks make it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time, and was there for their first ever Stanley Cup Finals win, 3-2 in overtime. I wrote two short stories I was extremely proud of. I had “The One About Jacob” accepted for publication. And I finished writing The Imaginary Corpse, the novel I am most proud of yet in my career, and one I am elated to be shopping around later this year after I’ve finished post-beta revisions. I figured out how to walk the walk on social justice issues, and learned it is both easier and harder than I gave it credit for. I got a much better handle on my anxiety, though post-election it’s been pretty rough.  I learned how to be more authentically myself — even when I am anxious or sad or angry, I am able to accept that it’s OK to feel those things most of the time, and I’ve stopped being ashamed and embarrassed of my likes and dislikes — again, most of the time.

I am stumbling to the finish line, bloodied and exhausted, and I anticipate a marathon of horrors coming out of the new White House. But I also anticipate my community being there for each other, and I know we will celebrate together in victory and comfort each other in defeat. I know there will be good art, and good love, and fun times, and people building toward their dreams. We may take a few body-blows this year, but we’ll try to protect each other from the knockout punch.

I’m off to go clean up and get ready to see friends this evening, but before I go, I want to say: thank you. Thank you for reading this blog, and the Pull List, and my fiction. I don’t know exactly how many of you there are, and I don’t need to, but knowing that these words are not just falling into the void and vanishing means a lot.

And now, I’m off to vacuum, and then play Sentinels of the Multiverse in my penguin kigurumi.

Yeah. That feels like the right way to end it.

Happy New Year, everybody.
Photo on 12-31-16 at 11.17 AM #2

On 2015

I am 4.5 hours away from beginning the celebration that will put 2015 firmly in my rear view mirror, and therefore, it is time to reflect on the year.

“Mixed bag” defines most years in a human life, but in many ways this year has been one of extremes in that regard. I’ve had some of my lowest lows this year, but also some of my highest highs, and the latter often came as a result of the former.

Low point: Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a manageable disease, but still a disease, and a chronic one there is currently no way to cure, only to avoid being hurt by (and that partially with a little luck); having my wife, the most important person in my life, receive the same diagnosis a month before I did. Realizing both diagnoses only came because she went in to have something unrelated checked up on, and that if we hadn’t checked we would have kept eating in a way that was ruinous to our health and potentially deadly long-term. Dealing with the tide of internal and external fat-shaming, diet-shaming, and general feeling of screwing up that comes with a type 2 diagnosis, along with the feeling that somehow this was life laughing at me after I decided to take charge of my mental and physical health this year.

High point: Going in for our first quarterly check-ups on the disease only to discover we have them totally under control with diet and exercise, we have praiseworthy amounts of willpower and discipline, and barring a curveball we should be able to avoid complications for our entire lifetimes. People told us we were an inspiration, and we learned that we are capable of a level of courage, self-discipline, and mutual support that will serve us well in every aspect of our very long, very healthy lives.

Low point: After resolving to submit more stories and novels, batting a perfect .000 for submission acceptances from January to December.

High point: Learning that I’m not the only one who goes through fallow periods like this; the hardship forcing me to learn things about my writing strengths and weaknesses that I might not have seen had I met with even moderate success. I’m finding my writing voice in a  way that I never have before, and I’m relaxing into the act of writing in a way I never have before. I’ve also figured out how to set reasonable goals for myself creatively and, as a result, in other aspects of my life. While I am not a financially richer writer after this year, I am a richer writer in every other sense.

Low point: My anxiety went off the rails at the beginning of the year, with multiple explosive crying jags, only further exacerbated by the discovery of the diabetes issues.

High point: The explosions were finally bad enough that I had some conversations with Sonya about our relationship that were absolutely necessary and strengthened our bond as friends, partners, lovers, and teammates — there’s no steel without fire, as I think they say. From that came the decision to grab hold of my mental health as well as physical, and from that came a relatively saner Tyler; not one free of anxiety, because that demon is never truly slain, but one who can take a step back and assess his problems and deal with them rationally in a way he never could before.

Low point: I found a safe space for social justice-minded folk like myself, and promptly said something truly terrible and followed it up with a series of anxiety-riddled mistakes and outright bad behavior that ended in me needing to leave said safe space and in fact helped catalyze a general fracturing of it, losing myself at least two friends and leaving my Internet social media experience awkward to say the least.

High point: That huge screw-up and wrongdoing on my part forced me to confront problematic aspects of myself and my relationships, forced me to accept that there are consequences for my actions in a way that was frankly a little abstract before (being as I am a very privileged person), and took me down the road of learning a whole lot more about how to be less problematic and how I need to comport myself in public and in private. And I did keep a few good friends out of that, who though they are wholly digital right now, are an important part of my support network going into 2015.

High point: I rediscovered my love of comics, especially superhero comics, and broadened my artistic tastes in all fields.

High point: I navigated the waters of how to relate to my friends and family, and how and when and why to identify people who are unhealthy for me and keep them at the necessary distance.

High point: I celebrated a year in a fantastic marriage with Sonya, who has helped me learn to be a better person and has helped me learn just how happy I can be. I love you, sweetie. Hail Hydra.

High point: I recognized, eyes wide open, how truly lucky I am to have the life I have, and how valued my contribution to the world really is.

High point: I made mistakes and still have friends and loved ones. Forgiveness can be so important.

High point: I learned how to be diplomatic when angry.

High point: I got to hang out with my new nephew and niece (marriage grows families in the most unexpected ways) and watch them continue to be interesting and smart and engaged.

High point: I had a tweet liked by Squirrel Girl.

High point: There are way more high points on this list than low points.

2015 kicked me in the bojangles more than once, and it did its level best to get me on the ground and bloodied; but in the end, the scars left by this year are scars I can bear with pride. I’m a better person, a better writer, a better husband, and a better Tyler all around than I was last December, and that is a treasure that will never tarnish.

Next year’s resolutions:

Keep up the writing schedule.

Attend more cons, as a guest and as an attendee.

Keep working on excising problematic language.

Take time for self-care.

Go on more dates with Sonya, and recognize that sometimes, time at home quietly reading is the best date night of all.

Play more board games, especially ones I have not played before.

That said, play more Sentinels of the Multiverse and Red Dragon Inn.

Watch more wrestling that is not produced by the McMahons.

Go to more Fathom Events.

Have a really good beer when the carb count is available.

Love Sonya.

Love my friends.

Love myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, two friends and their wonderful son are coming over soon to hang out and play some, oh yes, Sentinels of the Multiverse. I cannot think of a better way to start saying goodbye to 2015.

I love you all. Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.

Happy 2016,

Tyler

On 2014

So, here we are. The precipice of 2014. The yawning chasm we need to leap across to get to 2015 and all the unsullied promises it offers. The big day. The annual liminal state. New Year’s Eve. Which means it’s time for one more annual tradition: the year in review.

One of my resolutions is to be willing to do the things that make me the most comfortable and happiest, where it does not detract from another’s comfort and happiness to do so; and to that end, this post is going to have a bit more structure to its format. (You may have noticed the same thing happening to the Progress Friday posts.) Hence this big bold title right here:

High Points

The two words I see reflected in this year are “Discovery” and “Refinement.” Discovery of truths about me and the things I like and dislike, and refinement of my experience as I explore those likes and dislikes further and attempt to both broaden my horizons and seek out that which I know will please me.

Let’s start with the obvious and the most important: this year I lucked out and got to marry the love of my life. Sonya is my favorite person to spend time with, and one of the most interesting, intelligent, and enjoyable people I have ever had in my life. Colors are brighter and tastes are stronger when she’s around, and I’m so glad to know her. The wedding itself was a hell of a celebration, and a reaffirmation that we know some of the most high-quality people in this world, that we are loved and supported from without as well as from within, and that we can give ourselves the kind of celebration we deserve. Also that we’re pretty awesome at this whole party-planning thing.

Writing was also fantastic this year. I got not one, but two stories published, one of them via crowd-funding, which makes me feel so wonderfully supported and cared for. I tried my hand at writing comics, and in doing so discovered both that I love writing comics and that there are vast unexplored territories of possibility within prose that it took turning away for me to discover. I’ve now twice been in the same anthology as my good friend and Best Man, Matt Marovich, along with now having appeared alongside both Jennifer Brozek, a favorite editor of mine to work with, and Ekaterina Sedia, whose long-form fiction has always made me hold my breath. I had another story rejected that had some truly revelatory commentary for me — both in terms of highlighting my weaknesses, and telling me that, yes, people really do like my writing, and not all of my little embellishments are appealing only to me.

Perhaps most important from a writing standpoint, this has been a year of discovering my voice and my writing comfort zones, and discovering the cool things I can do when working outside those comfort zones. I’m reaching deeper and stretching farther when I write, and it’s bearing some sweet and redolent fruit that I hope I get to keep sharing with all of you. I hope this is the year I get to publish something…longer.

On a hobby level, the year just kept getting cooler. I rediscovered my love of comics, and for the first time in my life have my own comic-book subscriptions. I rediscovered my love of professional wrestling, and have drunk deep of the entertainment that bizarre medium offers. I have read some heartbreakingly beautiful books, and some dryly funny ones, and some that go all over the place, and feel enriched for the journey. And of course I’ve gotten to do some great gaming.

“Deserve” is a word I use a lot in this post, and that’s a major aspect of my personal journey this year. I can’t pinpoint one single reason this was the year it really started to happen, but for a variety of reasons, this is the year I started to fully recognize that not only do I have my own particular needs and desires and quirks and pecadilloes, but that as long as I am not hurting anybody, there is no reason not to indulge them. Whether it’s little things like letting myself have a plant at my desk even though no-one else does, or big things like allowing myself to admit that sometimes I just don’t want to deal with people, I’ve found myself more willing to give those things to myself; and perhaps better yet, also willing to give that kind of space to others. It does mean I get fewer wry and cynical jokes about the nature of humanity flowing out of me, but I am also somewhat less angry than I used to be, so I figure this is a net gain for me as a human being.

Low Points

You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

“Refinement” is the big one in this category, too — specifically, the refinements I still need to make to myself. It starts with my stress management and my conscientiousness about my stress management. This year was far, far more stressful than it had any cause to be, and with that stress has come a truly Herculean level of exhaustion and anxiety that has made it very hard to enjoy the latter quarter of this year or so, culminating in some bad meltdowns in the middle of my honeymoon and twice around Christmastime.

Some of that is a failure on my part to self-soothe and manage properly, and some of it is about my improperly QAd brain chemistry, and some of it is because I was in the way of a lot of stressful stuff that I need to not put myself in the way of anymore. The wedding was absolutely worth it, though I consider it a primary culprit. Some of the ways I’ve been expending my social capital have been sub-optimal, though, and I need to focus myself away from involvement in those things. See my resolutions for more on that subject.

Really, that is the major low point of my year — just stuff I need to work on. Which brings me to my New Year’s Resolutions.

HIGH RESOLUTIONS:

Submit more stories

I really face-planted on this one this year; yes, there were two publications, but I didn’t submit more than three or four total, which speaks to a great percentage but a lackluster effort. In 2015, I want to get at least six stories submitted, plus at least 3 novel submissions to agents. My hope is to be more prolific than that, but I’ll start with something manageable so I don’t get myself in a tizzy right off the bat.

Form a writing group

I need a writing group, bad. Conducting it online is fine, even just via email; but I need an outlet for creative exchange and feedback that isn’t dependent on going hat-in-hand to my friends on a case-by-case basis. I made a deal with myself that I would handle this after the wedding, and dad-gummit I am going to handle it in 2015.

Take care of my body

This is a three-part process. The first is starting to get more regular exercise; I need to get my body moving. The second is to get new glasses; I’ve had this set for a couple years, and even if the prescription doesn’t need to change, the frames are beat to hell and back (we’re going to pretend the damage is ninja-related). And when those are both handled, I want to find a new doctor who takes my shiny new (married!) insurance, and get back to getting yearly physicals. I’ve been bad about that, and I’m approaching the age range where I need to stop being bad about it. Not getting perfunctory treatment from a secondary Kaiser facility will help, too.

Take care of my mind

This is going to be a little self-indulgent, so bear with me.

Number one: I need to get back into therapy. It felt good while I was in it, though that particular setup was not sustainable, and I have insurance that will help me do it again; no reason not to take advantage of that. If meds are suggested as an option, I have my own permission to get a second opinion before I start them, and to ask to be weaned back off them if it really does impact my ability to enjoy life.

On a less medical level, I need to be more honest about what I want out of my social time and more willing to duck out of non-obligatory social stuff without feeling guilty. I passed up a lot of things because of the overwhelming stress of getting the wedding handled, and I do not want to do that this year, even if that means having to pick and choose my engagements with scheduled play a bit more. I need more time for unstructured play and cooking and date nights and adventures and conversation with my amazing friends, and when I see I am trending toward not enjoying something that is taking over a chunk of my schedule I need to be honest with myself and just not do that thing anymore, which looks easy on (digital) paper but is really, really rough in real life. I was not brought up to really put myself first, and trying to find the balance between being cordial and being selfish is rough.

I also need to be much more aware of the little things that affect my mood — both making it good and making it much, much worse. This means more reading time, a little more careful planning of my diet to include things that help boost my mood like fresh fruits and high-quality coffee and Cuban food, and also more taking time for self-care. This also means preparing better for autumn and winter and the stress they bring. Lack of sunlight really kills, and next year I need to be better prepared for the winter — some winter clothes I feel comfy in would be a good start, along with arranging more time outside in the sun during my work day and increasing my self-care time to account for the heightened anxiety and lowered energy.

LOW RESOLUTIONS

Stand up more for your boundaries

Outside of work functions or going to events that are important to friends (weddings, birthdays, etc.), I do not have to spend time around people who push my buttons. If I dislike someone, that is both my prerogative and my business, and I get to not do that when I don’t have to.

Cook more

I’m going to try to cook a big meal at least twice a month; this may require having people over more to incentivize it, but hey, that means more of that unstructured socialization time!

And some self-explanatory items: Eat less fast food; read more books this year than last year; read more literary magazines; keep a better grip on new and best-selling speculative fiction.

So, yeah. That’s my year in review, and my plans for the year to come. Overall, despite the darkness of winter, it has been an incredible year, and I look forward to spending another one with my wonderful wife and incredible friends. May yours be a year of growth and awesomeness and something, at least one thing, absolutely worth laughing yourself to tears over.

Talk to you on the other side.

~Tyler Hayes

Standing Over the Corpse of 2014

On 2013

So, the fates have conspired to strike me sick just before New Year’s, as I am sure you have heard from my Twitter feed. I sprouted a fever almost instantly during my Sentinels of the Multiverse demo at Wicked Grounds (which otherwise went very well!), and did not get anything resembling better over the next twenty-four hours. On Sunday I was alternately shivering and overheating, with a fever of around 102 at one point. We wound up taking a nap break in the middle of Christmas 4 (In Space!) with my side of the family, then bundling me off home to the land of orange juice and dextromethorphan. I am substantially better now, but still not well, and as such, Sonya and I called off our New Year’s Eve plans. Which is why I am here, taking a break between new board games to blog about my year.

2013 is a year I remember for being occasionally exceptional, and dreadful once or twice, but otherwise just sort of there. It actually went very fast in places, which is a sign of both exciting things happening and nothing happening. But, in review:

– I finished my rewrite of Done with Mirrors

– I sold a story! (Need to up that number, but one thing at a time)

– I wrote a holiday story and published it for the world to see

– I renewed my love for superheroes in a very serious way that I think will pay creative dividends

– I found a sense of where I want my professional and creative life to go from here

– I finished a D&D campaign for the first time ever (which is also only the second time I’ve finished running a tabletop RPG campaign of any kind); we are likely going to do a paragon story arc with the same characters, but still, we got to an ending and that makes us mighty

– And oh yeah, the most important of all: I got engaged to Sonya, the most wonderful woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and we are in love and getting married in 2014.

Though I know there were dreadful moments in the year, I am also happy to say that I don’t remember many of the details; even if I wanted to undertake some kind of masochistic catalog of events I wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened. I suspect anxiety attacks, and wedding stress, and probably some burnout from overtime at the day job. In other words, there was some Real Life in my Life this year.

So, on the docket for next year:

Finish the Done with Mirrors edits. Get it out to first-round readers.

Get exercising regularly again. Get that low-GI diet back in gear, too.

Hit the therapist’s office again.

Try to find a way to transition to doing more creative work this year. Whether it’s upping word count, sacrificing some social time, or the big Job Transition, something needs to give for my happiness. I just need to find the right amount to push it.

Really, I am not in haste to bid adieu to 2013, but nor am I lamenting its loss. It was a year; I grew and I stumbled, and my life changed as it inevitably will. This year, though, I can honestly say it was all for the better. Hopefully this next one, both you and I can say the same thing about, with twice as much enthusiasm.

Be safe, and have a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration. I’ll see you magnificent bastards on the other side.

On 2012

I’ll keep this short; I’ve got preparations for the party to finish.

2012 was the most mixed of all mixed bags. So much has happened this year that frankly I have trouble remembering it all happened in one year; I even keep conflating happenings in 2011 with the ones in 2012 just because of the sheer quantity that really did happen.

This year had a story acceptance to another anthology, which is stupendous, as always. It had me making a lot of headway on Done with Mirrors, including the all-important decision to knuckle down and write what amounts to a new novel with some of the same innards. It saw me through a lot of incredible movies (Looper, The Avengers, Wreck-It RalphBrave) and a few mediocre ones (The Dark Knight Rises). It saw me through just as many incredible books, too (In the Woods, Redshirts) and a card game that has redefined my hobbies and refocused my passions (Sentinels of the Multiverse). It saw me through rediscovering my love of writing after some nasty crises – twice – and developing and strengthening a circle of friends I am proud to be a part of, including watching two of those friends get happily, blissfully married. It led me to Captain Awkward, Larpcast, The Dice Tower, I Should Be Writing, and the Flophouse, all blogs and podcasts that leave me feeling like a vital and well-loved cog in something much bigger than myself. I also found a way to digest the news that doesn’t drive me crazy (Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me) and people who see the world the way I strive to see it (Radiolab). I saw my faith in humanity restored via voting, and I saw people proving that people are really pretty great when you give them a chance and a reason.

At the same time, 2012 was the year of stress. Some of my relationships were vastly strained. My time was often at a premium. I dealt with a lot of aches and pains up and down all year. Money woes followed me everywhere. For every vote that made me think better of my species, there was a vote that made me wonder if scouring, cleansing flame wasn’t the way to go. On a personal level, in 2012 I lost my grandfather, which was a blow whose reverberations I am still feeling; and in 2012, Sonya and I had to go to small-claims court over what amounted to nothing, a level of stress I had not realized we were even capable of.

In short, 2012 was what I said it was – a mixed bag. It had some growth and some success, but just as much pain and tribulation. For that reason, I am not sorry to see it go, and I am anxious to see what 2013 has in store for us.

Before I leave it, though, I want to take a second to thank everyone who read this blog in 2012 – the fumbling progress updates, the erratic essays, the publication announcements and pronouncements of stress and loss. I don’t know how many of you there are, and right now I don’t care; I’m just glad you were there, grabbing what I put into the ether.

For now, I am taking control of my last day of 2012 and making it a nice, raucous party. Scotch and soda will ensue, and board games, and hugs and love and laughter. I’ll end 2012 on the note every day should end on, and start 2013 in the company of friends and the love of my life, eating breakfast and playing games and possibly making a trip to go watch Django Unchained. Nothing can stop me, and nothing will.

Goodbye, 2012. You were a classy sort of bastard.

This Year Adds Up to Four

So here we are, my first fully sane, sober experience of the year 2011.  I’m 29 years old, published twice more online but not yet in print, and I somehow shrugged off a night of drinking without a hangover.  I’ve got a fridge full of food that did not get eaten at the party I hosted, a board game in desperate need of cleaning up, and a legion of dishes fixing me with baleful stares.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2010 was a perfectly fine year overall and a rocky year if taken piecemeal.  I had more than one ugly bit of personal drama and more than one day where I was truly not fit for human consumption; but I also had more than one day where I was ecstatic and overjoyed.  I did complete one life goal, in the sense that I have a day job that makes me happy and satisfies me intellectually, and still allows me time and energy in the evenings to write.  I restarted work on Eyes of Stone, which is proving to be a struggle but only because I demand growth from myself in my writing.  And after much deliberation I wound up in a relationship with my dear S., who really is everything she is cracked up to be.  So while 2010 had its problems (I know others had it much worse than I), I’m glad to have gone through it, and I’m glad it went the way it did.  It will help make 2011 all the sweeter.

And now, I need to go poke at this bit of pasta I cooked for myself (in an authentic microwave), and see about cleaning up a little more.  In some ways, I’m actually grateful for the chance to clean first thing in the New Year; it’s a nice way to start things off, a ritual cleansing of the last 365 days.

Okay, 2011.  Let’s get started.