“The old year now away is fled, the New Year it is entered”.
In many ways, the turning of one year to the next doesn’t matter much. It’s a way to track time, but while that’s the axle on which the wheels of history turn, it’s not what determines where we go. The New Year is a social construct. The thing is, social constructs are real, material forces in the world, and like gods, flags, and philosophies, the New Year has meaning, at its root, because enough people want it to. At the end of the day, that kind of meaning may be the only kind we really have.
This has been an interesting year for me. Some combination of a supportive family, total control over my time, and a legal situation that convinced me writing was actually the most “productive” use of my time meant that I’ve been writing daily for a year, in a way I’m not sure I ever have. More than that, having this control over what I write, how I write it, and why I write it has made the work immeasurably more fulfilling. I don’t know why it took so long for all of this to click, but in some ways it’s been exhilarating, after so many years of trying to get my brain to cooperate. I still have problems, of course, and there’s the nagging dread that something small will change and I’ll sink back into the brain fog and dysfunction, but for now? Life feels strangely good, despite everything that’s going on in the world.
I think that’s a testament to the importance of ensuring that everyone has this freedom, and of staying connected to humanity as a whole, so as to avoid that trap of assuming one’s own experience is universal. I’m also somewhat grounded by the fact that my current situation has a time limit on it. It is, speaking of social constructs, a result of Tegan’s visa as a graduate student. It’s my hope that between this blog and the novel I’m working on, I can bring in enough money to make writing continue to be viable when our situation changes. It feels like the odds are against me on that, but in this moment, there’s nothing for it but to keep working.
This has also been an “interesting” year, for a certain definition of interesting, because I lost Raksha. She had been a huge part of my life starting the summer after I graduated from college in 2007, all the way until this past spring, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better dog. She was gentle, sociable, smart, and eager to please. She also rarely barked, which made her a surprisingly good apartment dog, for a Shepherd mix that weighed 50lbs. She was probably happiest during the couple years we were living at my parent’s place in the woods, where she’d hang out, chase squirrels, and bask in the sun.
It’s strange to have a creature be a constant presence for a decade and a half, and then just… be gone. It’s something you always know is coming, but there’s a limit to how much easier that makes it, when it’s clear that nobody really wants things to end. I’ll probably never stop missing her, but writing these two paragraphs is more than I was able to do a few months ago. One benefit of aging is that experience can remind us that while time may not remove the pain entirely, things do get easier.
Thankfully, she wasn’t my only companion. I still have Tegan and His Holiness Saint Ray the Cat. Tegan shared my grief, of course, having lived with Raksha for almost nine of her fifteen years. His Holiness apparently didn’t care at all. He was there on the grass when the vet put her down, but he was far more interested in whether we were going to feed him. I think his main problem was that the landscape changed. Thankfully, as long as we keep feeding him and providing warmth and shelter, he will continue to be a loving stuffed animal of a housemate.
Honestly, I think the dog was more like a roommate that he had to put up with than someone he actually cared about. When Tegan’s gone for a long period of time, he gets fussy, and when she spends the day out of the house, he makes it his mission to prevent her from leaving again by sitting on her lap the second it becomes possible to do so. He’ll spend lots of time there when she’s home all day, too, but there’s less urgency to it. Tegan, you will be surprised to learn, is largely OK with this.
The other day, he took up residence while she watched a movie (I think it was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – I was working and didn’t feel like watching it), and he discovered that, when she wasn’t actively using it for work, her laptop made an excellent pillow!
Tegan sent me a couple pictures that seemed worth sharing with you all. He used to have a problem with comforters – the squishiness bothered him for some reason – but he has made his peace, and seems to appreciate them now, especially when they have the added benefit of being over a lap.
A few days before this, Tegan had been using her old sleeping bag to keep warm while she worked out in the living room, and His Holiness had apparently decided that that sleeping bag was the best thing ever created, and spent several entire days and nights mostly sleeping on it, regardless of where we were. He goes through phases like that with random spots in the house sometimes, like the box he was obsessed with a little while back.
Apparently he had reached the end of that phase, however, because when I came to bed, he decided to stick around, and found a little space above my pillow.
I have never encountered a cat that was so fond of pillows – not as a thing to lie on but as, well, a social construct. It’s not always, but often he likes having his head propped up on something other than his sleeping surface. This means that he will often share a pillow with one of us, by curling up next to it, and putting his head on it. Maybe this is something they all do and I’m just noticing it with my cat, but it’s such a marked preference with him, it seems to stand out in a way that I feel I would have noticed.
Either way, it’s extremely cute, and I’m grateful to have him in my life.
2023 looks to be an interesting year, not just in the sense of the curse of “interesting times”, but also because it feels sort of like a next stage for my attempt to hold on to a lifestyle that I actually find fulfilling. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m not going to be posing anything for the first week in January. It’s not exactly a week “off”, but my biggest upcoming goal is to get a solid draft of my current novel finished by the end of Spring. I’m aiming for April, but I’m unsure of my ability to get there. Fiction’s harder for me than nonfiction in many ways. I didn’t get as far as I wanted to in November, but I did make real progress, and I’ve made more over the past month. I think it’ll be a fun book, and a good, if somewhat sneaky beginning to what I hope will be a unique and captivating fantasy epic.
I’m still working on how I want to go about publishing it, but I’m leaning towards self-publication or something close to it. At some point this year, I’ll also start releasing bits and pieces as teasers, and probably a little more than that for my patrons (who have the option to name characters). It’s a sword-and-sorcery story that follows a young mage named Tad, who signs up to serve the empire in which he was born. In that regard, the setup is familiar, and in many ways this will be just another fantasy novel in a quasi-medieval setting. That said, I find I cannot be satisfied with a society that has rulers in fiction any more than in reality, and the ghosts of “past” injustice continue to haunt us in any world, until we do what is needed to appease them and mend the damage.
What potions require mushrooms, harvested from a swamp in the dark of the New Moon? What secrets are held within the red-streaked black marble of the Imperial palace? How much of the world around us is a lie? What waits at the bottom of a bottomless pit? How much can a friendship withstand?
In 2023, I mean to answer these questions and more. In time, of course, the answers will be available to all who buy my books, but readers of this blog may get early or inside information, and my patrons will play a role in shaping this world, should they want it.
And, of course, Oceanoxia will continue. Once my break is over, I plan on posting daily as I have been. Going forward, I’ll do my best do provide better written summaries and discussions of Youtube videos I post. I think it was The Great American Satan that pointed out that people likely to read a blog like this might be less interested in watching videos than in, well, reading. It’s a good point and one I’ll be trying to keep in mind. I had started using Youtube as a way to post content when I didn’t have anything better, and I’m sure I’ll still do that from time to time, but like I said – I’m trying to make a living out of this, and beyond periodically haranguing people for money, Oceanoxia needs to be something that people feel is worth supporting.
I’ve found it hard, recently, to feel hopeful about the start of a new year. There’s a lot of bad in the world right now, and a lot of power behind the effort to keep things that way. In terms of the world at large, well, it doesn’t feel like things are getting better soon. In terms of my own life? It’s hard to tell, but I have real hopes for my current projects, and for another year in which it feels like I’m actually making progress as a craftsman. In a lot of ways, that’s most of what I want out of my personal life, and I’m grateful for this opportunity, however long it lasts.
I hope you all have a good night, whatever your plans tonight, and I hope that 2023 is filled with pleasant surprises for all of us.