Thanks, Skiffy and Fanty, for asking what brings me joy — because now I’m thinking about that, and that’s a good thing. Especially in these times.
There are a few candidates.
Erin, my spouse of nearly 19 years. Marrying her still ranks as the best decision I ever made, and I’m still astonished sometimes that someone so amazing would choose me.
Being married to someone with a chronic illness isn’t all joy, certainly; it can be tough. But I knew that was the deal going in, and going through the tough times together makes the joy stand out more against the background.
Dot, my tiny cat, who comes around when I get out of the shower and licks my feet dry, or stands up on her back legs and reaches up her front paws — no claws — to hold my hand still so she can rub her cheek on it. She’s so sweet and cute and affectionate, I sometimes laugh with delight.
Cooking. My wife is addicted to cooking shows, and we watch them together. Eventually, it made me want to level up my cooking, so I got the astonishing book The Food Lab and used it to help me create this recipe for easy, cheap, nutritious, delicious dhal.
Going out in my kayak on the two harbours of Auckland, or the other waterways nearby. There are a dozen beautiful places to launch within half an hour of my house. Kayaking combines a lot of factors that are good for mental health: being out in the fresh air, near water, near trees, exercising, moving at about walking pace, in the sunshine. I come back in the best mood.
Reading. I review most of what I read, which means I get a lot of free books from Netgalley, and there have been some excellent ones among them lately. My 2017 review roundup is here.
And writing, of course. I’ll never forget the almost out-of-body experience of watching myself type a scene which revealed a piece of backstory that I’d hinted at repeatedly, but never worked out; wondering what was going to happen next, and seeing it unfold in front of me. There’s a quiet satisfaction, too, in finishing something and knowing it’s as good as you can make it and better than the things you’ve made before, that it says something important, that there’s a truth to it that comes out of a deep place.
Then there’s the delight of reading a review by someone who not only digs my stuff, but groks it. The way it feels to get an email that says I’ve sold a story, which has happened going on 20 times now (counting reprints). It doesn’t get old. Or an email from a publisher or from Amazon that says I’ve made some money. It’s hundreds of dollars, not thousands, at the moment — more a way of keeping score than an income — but it keeps on coming, and it’s slowly ramping up.
I think there’s more joy yet to come.
Mike Reeves-McMillan lives in Auckland, the setting of his Auckland Allies contemporary urban fantasy series; and also in his head, where the weather is more reliable, and there are a lot more wizards. He also writes the Gryphon Clerks series, steampunkish secondary-world fantasy full of heroic civil servants and engineers, fighting for justice and equality; the Hand of the Trickster series, Leverage-meets-Lankhmar sword-and-sorcery heist capers in a corrupt empire where the High Gods have fallen silent; and assorted short stories, for venues including Compelling Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores. His latest novel is Mister Bucket for Assembly, a Gryphon Clerks novel about a hard-fought election, and his current work in progress is the sequel, Illustrated Gnome News, in which a recently emancipated people battles to find and keep its voice amid old expectations and new technology. It’s due out from Digital Fiction in 2018.