Distal Muse Archives


by Mark W. Tiedemann


     I've never done a summation before.  But 2003 was one of those years that seems to require assessment, if for no other reason than to clear the air for 2004.
     In many ways, 2003 was a terrible year.  I've been forced to reassess a great deal.  I've had to cope with bad news, irritation, and frustration.  It seemed to come in great big clumps that took root and grew.
     Before I go on, let me say that some truly wonderful things happened and a lot of good has come out of it as well.  This is not a chronicle of Jobean desolation.
     Bad enough though.
     I don't want to get into business too much, but it can't be helped.  I learned early on--in December '02 actually, but it continued through this whole year--that I am not doing well commercially.  That news alone would have flavored the whole year.  People are not lining up to buy my books.
     I hesitated to bring this up, but it's relevant to all that follows.  Nobody really likes to hear someone bitch about how bad they're doing--we'd much rather hear about how well things are going, and in fact many things are going well.  But the year started off with a pitfall and staggered on through others.
     By rough estimate, the Robot Mystery novels I wrote in the Isaac Asimov universe have done well.  The books seem to be reasonably popular.  I even got royalties on the first one, so I know several thousand copies have sold.  I'm pleased.  It should have been a high point, starting off the year with a bang.  Instead it prompted a puzzle, because not a month before I learned that the Secantis Sequence is doing rather poorly.
     As best we can tell, almost no one who bought the Robot books has bothered to look at what else I've written.  They are content with the Asimovian milieu and feel no compulsion to check out my other work.
     It means in the short run that there will be no Secantis book in 2004 and maybe not in 2005.
     That ate at me.  I have no idea how to alter that.
     On top of this, my day job--yes, I have one of those--became less reliable.  Hours cut.  That's improved, but I'm still wondering where this damn "recovery" is Bush and Company keep talking about.
     In the midst of this, I found it necessary to check into the hospital for tests.  This is the first time I've had to do this.  No details, if you don't mind, and everything is fine, but until the verdict came that all is well this added another layer of anxiety on top of the rest.  I'm 49.  I tolerated all the sagacious looks from people commiserating and telling that, well, you've reached That Age.
     Screw that.  I've managed to maintain pretty good health most of my life.  I tend to push my limits, work too hard, and collide with the flu season, resulting in a few weeks of nastiness, but by and large I'm in pretty good shape for someone my age.  I lift weights, I can still do chin kicks and roundhouses, and except for a touch of heartburn I can still eat just about anything I want.  This was just an annoyance, nature letting me know that no one gets out of this thing alive, but what the hell, my paternal grandmother lived till 108, and after this little episode my doctor called to confirm my age because "we don't see these kind of test results on people over 35 very often."
     Still, it was troubling.
     Then we realized, as we were coming out of six week long battle with flu that just wouldn't let go, that Kory wasn't doing so well.  Our dog.  She'd stopped eating and one morning she gave me this sorrowful look and I thought "cripes, she looks thin!"  That and this awful rumble in her throat when she slept...
     The short of it is, Kory has a thyroid tumor.  It has already metastisized, so there's no point in operating.  We're going to lose our dog.  Coming to terms with that--well, we're still coming to terms with that.
     But we managed to find a way to get her to eat again, and it's been nearly a year and she's still with us.  Getting thinner, a bit more decrepit, but still anxious to see what's going to happen Today.  When she doesn't want to go for rides anymore, we'll know.
     Various of our friends have had various problems--some new and unusual, others old ones just not going away or getting worse--which added to the load of gloomy burden.
     Then of course my country has gone to war.  John Ashcroft is still Attorneys General.  And the Religious Right refuses to vanish in the light of reason.
     To top it all off, it became increasingly clear (or not, depending how one looks at it) throughout 2003 that I am in need of glasses.  Reading glasses.
     People tell me how pleased I should be that I've reached nearly half-a-century without needing them.  Somehow it doesn't quite compensate.
     I wore glasses as a kid.  I got them in fifth grade--bifocals--and finally got rid of them at age 26 or 27.  My eyes corrected out.  So for the last 22 years or so I've been without need of corrective lenses.  I don't know what irritates me more, the fact that I need them or the fact that I have to shell out money for them.
     The economy has hit everyone hard.  I realize this is partly why I'm not doing better, but when it's your own life that's being affected it's difficult to pull back and be objective.  But that's part of the reason I've been stewing at a steady low-level of rage most of 2003.  I haven't been so politically pissed off since Nixon was in office.
     As 2004 dawns, things are turning around a little, and I've found a bit of objectivity.  But it's not all that good.  Very few people I know have a good opinion of 2003.  Most have had what they consider one of their worst years.  It's not just me.  Last year was not kind to most of us.  I am very glad it's over.
     Were there good parts?
     Indeed.  I saved those for the end, so we did not go out on a downer note.
     Kory is still alive and still alert and interested.
     I sold two novels, one my own original, the other another franchise work.  But hey, a sale is a sale.
     I'm on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Center For the Book.  Google Center for the Book and you'll discover that it's a Library of Congress program.  We promote books and reading.  Every year we hold an annual Celebration of the Book.  I was deeply involved in putting one on this year and we had a truly terrific gig.  All day readings by eight Missouri writers.  It was well-attended, festive, and a good high note.
     I sold some short stories and got to write my second comedy.  Comedy is hard.  Ask anyone who does it.
     Donna and I (mostly Donna, this is her project) redid the back yard over the summer.  It looks very cool.  She did the design work, I simply Moved Things.
     I got my first invitation to be a Guest of Honor at a convention.
     The third Secantis book, Peace And Memory, was published and has garnered some decent reviews.
     We bought a new furnace.  A necessity, of course, but we have a top of the line one and will not freeze this winter, which is a Good Thing.
     I started doing reviews for a local newspaper.  The first should be out in February '04.
     We took a week trip to New Mexico to visit a friend who lives in the hills outside Albuquerque.  The stars were incredible, we jammed nightly, and I discovered a branch of my family that I very much like and hope to visit again.
     I read some good books, had many good conversations, and made plans for some projects I think will be much fun.
     The year was not all bad, you see.  Highlights abound.  It may be that the whole 12 months will prove to be a net gain.  But I'm still smarting from some of the shocks.
     We're going into 2004 optimistically.  I attended that convention as GoH and we had an absolutely marvelous time.  More books await me.  I have some Ideas.
     All in all, I trust my summation for this coming year will be nothing but Good Stuff.
     Thanks for bearing with me.

copyright © 2004 by Mark W. Tiedemann