Welcome to 2018!

The new year is roaring in like a lion out here in Northeast Florida. For the first time in my dozen years out here, Jacksonville is under a winter storm warning. How cold is it really? It snowed today in Tallahassee. FSCJ closed all of its campuses here in town and the city government shut down today. We were blasted by frigid rains (the temperatures hovered near freezing all morning) and some good gusty winds. Feels like spring in Oregon, to be honest! That said, we'll have cold the remainder of the week and a true winter feel to get the new year off to a rousing start.

I'm not much of a resolution maker. I have a pretty even keel in terms of the things that I enjoy doing and that I do as a matter of principle, and exercise is one of those. Eating fairly well is another. I love to run and I don't over-indulge at the dinner table, so those never really become resolutions for me. 

But new years are new beginnings and, in light of finishing up the doctoral dissertation last year and getting through with my work at UCF, I didn't have much time to write fiction. I penned a short story and a novella and I sold an old trunk story. That was it. 

So I'm excited about getting back to the word processor and working on some tales that have been percolating at the edges of my thoughts for some time. So far, so good on that account...

I also want to get back to coaching soccer. I love working with kids and helping them grow their joy for the sport, and we're leveling up this year to a more competitive league with better facilities. We will be playing in the recreational leagues with Armada FC's youth initiative. They have travelling teams and high-level competitive leagues as well, and we'll cross those bridges if they appear in our path. Until then, I just want to play soccer with my daughter and enjoy everything that game has to offer. 

I'll make a concerted effort to supplement my fiction with a bit more reporting here in my Web journal. Ideally, I'd like to get in here and just leave a record of the stories that have left a mark on me in the past few days. To that end, here are two:

Christopher Solomon's "The Last Man Up" tells the heart-breaking story of Michael LeMaitre, a well-loved Alaskan with a taste for adventure and a willingness to test the Last Frontier. It's well-written and comprehensive--or at least as comprehensive as one can expect from a baffling mystery such as this one. How can a man disappear in a public race on a well-traveled path in full view of an entire town? For a variety of reasons, Alaska has the highest rate of missing persons in the United States. But the mystery of what happened to LeMaitre is sad, scary, and wholly captivating. For anyone that has ever wondered how a person could vanish into thin air, this is a story worth looking into. I hope for peace for the LeMaitre family...

Tamsyn Muir's "The Woman in the Hill" is a dread-inspiring epistolary tale about an ominous place in the New Zealand wilderness. Muir is a fine writer with a knack for building slow tension and a foreboding atmosphere. This story builds toward a terrifying climax, and one that I don't give away with the following quote, although I do find it representative of Muir's engaging prose style:
Dorothy, I took that place with me. It is inside me now. Whosoever is its master is well-versed in claiming victims. You are the one to whom I may try to communicate it and therefore, I will warn you before I succumb. You must not come. The only woman you may save now is yourself. You have been a rare friend and correspondent. If you deem me a madwoman I won’t care, just so long as you stay in town and never set foot in Tauranga. It is too much like you to come and investigate if I disappeared from hearing. If I present you the facts to begin with, it may quell your desire to procure them. Do not come. This is not your mystery.
Give this one a look if you want a shudder on a cold January afternoon.

Happy New Year, as well! I hope 2018 is a productive, happy, and healthy year...

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