A Year Wiser. Decades older.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 364 days since my last confession, er, Blog Post. Do people even do blogs any more? I dunno. Obviously, for the most part… I don’t.

But the end of the year brings out the Commencement Speech Blowhard in me. Years ago, inspired by Neil Gaiman, I did a few blog posts of the In-This-Coming-Year-My-Wish-For-You variety. Thankfully, they were deleted when I started this new blog a year ago.

As of this writing, there are only two posts on this blog. The post you’re reading is one. The other one was written on 2 JAN, 2020, detailing – musing may be a better word, or mulling – my plans for 2020.

How naïve I was.

As with most of us, I did not survive 2020 intact. My plans for the year were the first casualty, but not the worst. 2019 brought the loss of my sister Janet far too young, but 2020 finally took my father with just two weeks to go in this terrible year, when he caught COVID-19. It is particularly heartbreaking that this happened JUST as the vaccines were beginning to roll out. He was like a member of the last platoon to die just as peace was being negotiated.

The year wasn’t all bad. I drew a lot. I was allowed to keep my job, unlike so many others; to work safely from home, unlike so many more. We got to spend tons of time together during the final 6 months of our middle son’s childhood before he moved out in August. During that time, he was furloughed, as was my wife, and our youngest was doing his final year of high school distant-learning here at the house, all of which meant we were all here together every day. (Our oldest had long since moved out, but we got to talk to him frequently by text and phone).

But the four remaining members of our household on lockdown and unable to go much of anywhere, we were blessed to spend hours together, streaming entertainment, going on nature hikes, eating at the food trucks that visited our neighborhood weekly, a small thing that loomed gigantic in our lives. We were as excited about the weekly food truck visit as children eagerly awaiting the Ice Cream Man!

On one hand, yeah, we were all stuck together, and the restrictions felt oppressive on occasion. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to erase so many hours – so much precious time – together, growing closer as a family. I actually treasure the memories of those times, even moreso now that my father’s passing reminds me that nothing lasts forever.

I wrap up this year much as I did the previous, unsure what to do about Magnificatz, unsure what would become of Zook and Taraniki and so many of my little side projects. In the end, it’s academic. In the end, 2020 did not allow me to answer those questions, but in the end… those questions don’t matter in the big scheme of things. As of now, I’ve lived to fight another day, and that has to be enough for now.

This year has me thinking about Good and Bad. 2020 was the Worst Year Ever, so goes the conventional wisdom. I suspect some particularly bad years in history would beg to differ, but I’ll concede the point only to make another:

2020 was bad, I’ll grant you that. It took so much from us. It took jobs and livelihoods and normality away. It stole a measure of Civilization as lies became the hard currency of politicians who knew better. It took – as of this writing – almost 350,000 American lives at the hands of a pandemic allowed to run rampant in this country. And it took my father.

But were there not also good things in this year? If there was good among the bad, I hope you get to recognize that. Don’t throw out the fragile baby magic with the toxic, COVID-infested bathwater.

That would be an insult to all the injury, because if the only thing we take away from bad experiences are the memories of the bad, all we are left with are bad memories.

I choose to focus on the one hope in me that survived, not all the ones I lost; I choose to remember the time we were all together, as I knew – and I did know – they wouldn’t last. But I feel I got a momentary reprieve before we all moved on to our own lives and my father was gone.

My wish for you in 2021 is that you are kind to yourself. That you survive. That your loved ones survive, and that you are fortunate enough to have love, and time, and hope around you.

Nothing lasts forever, and better days are coming. I also choose to believe that.

Taraniki, Magnificatz and the Future

So… this little guy, yeah? I call him Taraniki, and I can’t seem to stop drawing him. Not anything intentional, mind you, unless you count the dozens of images I did for an October inking challenge in the fall of 2019. No, it’s more… he comes out in doodles while I’m on the phone or otherwise absentmindedly moving my pen.

I have no idea what his story is, but he has certainly done a great job of arguing for his own existence since 2000. That’s twenty years(!) and it’s unusual for an idea to linger in my mind like that for so long without me doing anything about it.

Which brings me to… You no doubt know I have a syndicated strip called Magnificatz which I’ve been creating since 2013? As I write this on JAN 2, 2020, I am writing my 300th Magnificatz strip, and I’m starting to feel like that’s enough, you know? I’m not sure what I’ll do next – cut back to a strip or so a week? Drop it entirely? Place it in re-runs? I dunno. But I am feeling the urge to do something else besides my beloved little cute cat cartoon.

Taraniki is a likely candidate for my next project. As I say, I like drawing him and his adventures, even though I’m not exactly sure what they are. But I might just as easily tackle one of my other projects that I’ve put on hold during Magnificatz’ run.

I may do a graphic novel. I may create a new comic strip (even though that’s looking increasingly unlikely… the thought of building a strip up from the ground right now exhausts me) or… I may go off half-cocked and start writing these novels I’ve had rattling around in my head for so long. Hugh Howey’s advice is pounding pretty strongly in my head:

“There’s no guarantee you’ll get rich from self-publishing. There’s less guarantee you’ll get rich from querying agents.

I’ve been self-publishing for a decade now after decades of publisher rejection convinced me I’d better strike out on my own. Looks like I’m going to continue to do so.

What’s next? I dunno. Taraniki? Comics, Graphic Novels, Prose? Something else? You never know. But I hope it will be as fun for you to read as it will be for me to create.

Thanks for joining me so far, and happy 2020 to us all!