2015 is here, and like so many others, I am hoping for a better year than the last one.

It started off with, not a bang, but a whimper. I got drunk by myself on New Year's Eve 2013, listening to Ween records. I woke up in 2014 to find my car had been ransacked.

From there things went downhill.

A pipe broke in my attic and flooded my house with freezing water. I live in the upper south, and whole my northern neighbors like to smirk when we talk about the cold down here, the truth is, our buildings were not made to withstand severe cold. Even cold that is far lesser than they are accustomed to.

Then, dreaded Spring arrived, and the allergies were worse than ever. If that was not enough, my Mom died in April, and my cat died around one week later. Judge me if you will, but losing my kitty was the hardest part. My family was not close. This does not make losing my birth mother an easy thing.

The allergic reaction turned into a full-blown sinus infection. But that was not the worst of it. Oh no.

The Scares That Care convention was in June. I flew my stepdaughter in for the occasion, and I planned it for over a year. The sinus infection turned into pneumonia. Right before the convention. We had a road trip planned, and I went ahead with it. I drove eight-hundred miles with the pneumonia, and then attended the convention.

Scares That Care was a fantastic show, especially when one considers that it was a maiden voyage. It was far more organized and well-run than many long-running cons I have attended over the years. I had a great time. I was also absolutely miserable every minute of it. It was extremely foolhardy for me to even have been there.

I came home, broke, but ready to buckle down and get caught up financially. Life had other plans for me in that area, too.

I was laid off from my job shortly after the con. A job I had put my heart and soul into for twenty-three years. No warning. No severance. Just a boot out there door without even a "Good luck" on the way.

I had taken out a loan to ensure a good time at the con. I had a car payment, a mortgage, other debt, as well as monthly expenses to contend with. I received the maximum amount of unemployment available. Which was not enough to even come close to covering my obligations.

I applied for Food Stamps. Guess what? I was denied the benefit. All the taxes I have paid in my life, and I hit a bad patch through no fault of my own, and I was refused. While people live off of that kind of assistance their entire lives. You'll be unsurprised to hear that my faith in the system is nonexistent.

I sold nearly all my DVDs and records. The ones that held any value, anyway. I scraped by, falling behind on my bills very quickly.

Thus I entered one of the worst periods of my life. I felt alone, dejected, abandoned, and nearly suicidal.

My fortune changed with a phone call one morning. A company was interested in employing me. After a near-disastrous interview and processing period, where my anxiety almost wrecked my chances, I was hired. I am now currently employed at a government facility.

Money is substantially less than I was making at my former job, but I was, and am, working again. I am on a plan to get my house payments caught up. (Remind me to tell you about the asshole at the mortgage company who assured me that no late fees or penalties would accrue while I was unemployed. They did anyway.)

The dreaded holidays have come and gone. It is a difficult time for those of us with no family and precious few friends.

So now I am at the cusp of a new year, I am cautiously hopeful. I look forward to better times and hopefully more money at my job. As always, I hope for good reading, viewing, and listening experiences.

It is also a time for looking back at the highs and lows of the past year.

I'm afraid that I was not much of an adventurous year for me as a reader. My favorites are pretty predictable. F. Paul Wilson's Dark City, Bill Pronzini's Strangers, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Blue Labyrinth, Ed Gorman's Riders on the Storm.

My favorite novel of the year was Stephen King's Revival. I know that not everyone agrees on this one, but I thought it was an absolutely brilliant character study. The theme of loss is strong in the book. Loss of loved ones, faith, youth, and ultimately, life. And if the actual outcome was a tad disappointing, the buildup to it was so dark and frightening that I don't hold it against the novel. For me, one of King's best.

A big runner-up was Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss's The Halloween Children. A beautifully-written, scary novel that is as much about the dark side of marriage as it is a savagely disturbing Halloween yarn. These guys are both favorites, and I hope that they collaborate again.

As for movies, my favorite was a feature that was reviled by people who, for the most part, did not see it. Men, Women and Children was accused, tried, convicted, and executed by almost everyone. No one seemed to believe me when I said that it is not as preachy as the trailers make it seem to be, and that it is a pretty fair-minded portrayal of today's society. On the other hand, you might as well criticize people's tattoos. Few want to hear about the pratfalls of their infernal gadgets and cherished social media outlets. For me, however, Men, Women and Children is a smart, profound, moving movie by one of the most consistently entertaining and provocative directors working today: Jason Reitman.

The vinyl revolution continues to grow in popularity in the world of music. True music lovers have turned back to the vastly superior sound of the record album. Of course the industry still bites the hand that feeds it by charging obscene prices for records. It's especially galling in the cases of classic rock releases that have made the studios money time and time and time again over the years.

Resolutions? Yeah, I guess I have a few. I want to do more reading, and try to check out more newer writers. Unfortunately I have paid good money in the past, and been disappointed in so many of them. Books and authors that are praised to the heavens by people in the community.

I also intend to continue my sober lifestyle, see more movies at the theater, and attempt to have a better social life.

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