A friend of mine once joked that having a birthday in December is cursed luck, because everybody's busy with end of year parties, Christmases, holidays and whatnot.

You know what's even more cursed? A death in a Monday at the end of the year. Everybody's busy. Everything is busy. Work from Monday is still piled up and people are barely getting in gear for the working week.

It's nobody's fault, of course.

At least I have this blank page to write in.

I woke up to snow this morning, enough snow to cancel bus routes. Enough snow that the seasonal combination of challenging conditions and challenged drivers caused numerous accidents locally, one of them fatal.

But snow is inevitable here, even when it's a bit late and occasionally dangerous, and the ski-hill owners can breathe a sigh of relief.

I can walk to work these days. Right now, that's a lot safer than driving.

My friend Detroit, his wife, and her twin sister all tested positive for COVID-19. I spoke with two of them on Skype. All have symptoms, but they're not severe, and they appear to be recovering. In an added 2020 twist, this is the first stretch he's not gone into work since the pandemic started. One might think that his IT position would permit him to work easily from home, but someone has to be in the building with the actual tech, just in case. Generally, he holds that position.

My novel, The Con, hasn't set the literary world afire, but it has received some positive reviews, including one in Library Journal. The response at John Scalzi's blog was encouraging, and I set up a Goodreads author account in response to some encouraging (so far) activity there. As much as I'd like to return to a novel I left half-finished some months ago, I've used my writing time for other projects. While I maintain the literary flash piece I wrote last spring is one of my better efforts, it continues to lack a home. To be fair, two of the three places I've sent it have been contests. The competition, obviously, can be intense. It awaits judgment in yet another queue.

I've assembled a collection of short stories, previously published, unpublished, and, in one case, unfinished, and sent them to my publisher as a possible follow-up book. Along the way, three new short-stories emerged. I dusted off and revised an older story that seems perfect for another project, an anthology of fantasy with political elements. That's being published in the U.S., where these days fantasy and politics have become clingy bedfellows. I'll find out later what they make of my effort. I also penned a story in one day, and plan to revise and submit to a specific fantasy magazine that's currently open. Finally, I have to complete that unfinished tale for my hypothetical forthcoming collection.

All three of these stories take place in fantastic settings, viewed from ground level. The political story started with a minor beef I have with so much fantasy literature set in current times or recent history. These stories involve magic or vampires or what have you, but the world remains otherwise unchanged. Harry Potter and the other wizards head off to their secret schools and don't reveal their existence. Vampires and werewolves abound, their tribes often secretly influencing human history, but almost no one knows they're real. I understand the appeal of the trope, but it strikes me as implausible, assuming magic and the undead are in any sense plausible. If vampires were real, we'd know about them. If widespread magic existed, we would be living with its influence.

So the political story takes place in a working-class neighborhood in the Decklands. The entirety of human history has taken a wildly divergent path, because magic is real. The average North American can vote for a local representative in the House of Commons, but the balance of power rests with the Synod of Mages. Internal combustion engines, the silver screen, and spellcraft coexist. The implications for those born with magic potential could not be more serious. That's the setting, and not the plot. I'll direct interested readers to the story if it ever sees the light of day.

The one-day draft tale takes a similar, if lighter approach. In its reality, humans openly coexist with elves, satyrs, nosferatu, and an indeterminate number of other things some local dungeon master might throw into the mix. Except we're on a campus out of a college movie. Relationships between species away from home for the first time can prove a heady and dangerous mix. Naturally, some people are a-holes in every reality. I grant, paranormal romance, "Elf and dwarf" gaming-inspired fantasy stories, and Animal House shenanigans begging for a #MeToo movement, have all passed their prime. Perhaps the blend of the three will strike someone as original or at least entertaining.

Finally, we have the story-in-progress I'm writing for the hypothetical collection. Suppose the flying saucer craze of the early 1950s hadn't crashed and burned. Suppose aliens actually landed, March 15, 1953. Like Star Trek in reverse, the landing parties muddled about for a bit, interacted with the locals, presented a weird musical instrument as a gift, and then departed. Eighteen years later, they return. The protagonist, born the day of the landing, has only known a world where extra-terrestrials exist and, in theory, could turn up again at any time. The Cold War went on the back burner, World War II-style international cooperation resumed, and the space program was amped up. The American debacle in Vietnam never happened. Most people embrace science: we need to get out there, and we need to be prepared in case the next visitors aren't so friendly. Some protesters think we're spending too much on space and planetary defence. Others blame alien contact for everything from Rock 'n' Roll to the Sexual Revolution and the decline of traditional religion. Some longed for the return, while others feared it. Many people believe the various world governments know more than they've revealed.

Most world leaders-- U.S. president Robert Kennedy, for example-- extend official greetings to our old, seven-limbed friends. Others aren't so certain about the welcome mat.

A few members of the Space Generation stumble across a plot. Will they be believed? Can they take action? And are the visitors the perpetrators, or the potential victims?

I have some time today. I should probably be working on that story, instead of posting here.

Stay safe, and keep watching the skis! Uh, skies.

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