Christmas 2021 is in the books. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and continue to enjoy the season as we head into the new year.
This week’s newsletter will be fairly short, as the Daly family is still recovering from the festivities. As in years past (except for last year), they included our hosting of Christmas brunch for my wife’s side of the family, which is quite large.
To clarify, I’m not saying they’re large people (in part because a couple of them read this newsletter). I’m speaking purely about numbers. My wife’s parents and her four siblings (along with their spouses) all live within an hour’s drive, and we’ve got lots of nieces and nephews (some are still kids, and others have their own kids).
So, it was a big, CDC-cringing turnout. And like my wife, my in-laws are loud. I mean, really loud. I mean, constantly-shouting-over-each-other-to-try-and-be-funny loud. Plus, there are usually three or four dogs in the mix, and they love to wrestle with each other and bark at new arrivals. Between the feast, dozens of conversations (including an abundance of recycled political memes), and an unreasonably complicated gift exchange, it’s an absolute circus.
For a guy like me, who grew up in a very low-key household of four (a good 1,400 miles away from the nearest grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin), it can be pretty overwhelming. When I’m not offering empathy to new brunch attendees (usually fresh or prospective spouses), I’m looking for opportunities to discreetly slip into my office or outside for a few minutes of peace.
Did I mention that my in-laws are loud?
But people always have a fun time, the food everyone brings is delicious, and it’s always good to catch up. The same was true of the much more muted dinner we had with my side of the family the night before.
My favorite family Christmas hallmark, however, is this one:
It’s true. My daughter absolutely loves the holiday. She always has, and surprisingly, her Christmas spirit only seems to heighten with each new year. She bakes Christmas cookies, she sings and listens to Christmas carols, she comes up with very sweet and thoughtful gifts (which she finishes wrapping before any of us), she leads the charge on decorating, and she enforces Christmas traditions (almost to the point of driving the rest of us nuts). And when she wakes up on Christmas day morning, she can barely contain her excitement.
It’s all very endearing, and I hope it’s something she carries into adulthood.
My least favorite Christmas hallmark? The clean-up… which I’ve been avoiding for over 24 hours now… which hasn’t gone unnoticed by my wife. Folding tables and chairs throughout multiple rooms. Plastic cups, pop cans, and wine glasses everywhere. The kitchen sink overflowing (with pretty much everything). A crammed fridge and mismatched Tupperware containers filled with leftovers that people should have taken with them.
In other words, I have my work cut out for me. But before I move on, let me first wish you all a Happy New Year.
The last couple years have been particularly challenging, and 2021 wasn’t quite the revival many of us were hoping for. But I’m cautiously optimistic, with the coronavirus mutating into a less severe form (at least for now), and new medical breakthroughs promising better over-the-counter treatments (in addition to the vaccines), that everyday life will keep getting us closer to how things were before the pandemic.
One more thing: in celebration of 2022, I’m working on a special interview that I hope to finalize (and publish) in the very near future. I won’t say for now who and what the subject will be, but stay tuned. I think you’re going to like it.
Have a favorite Christmas family tradition? Tell me about it in an email, or in the comment section below.
More Than Meets the Eye
Last week, I signed off on the final cover for my upcoming novel, “Restitution”. When I okayed the initial cover design way back in March, I didn’t know (or frankly care) what the spine and back cover would look like. I guess I just assumed they’d be solid red with white text.
As you can see below (and as I learned last week), it turned out quite a bit sharper than that, and I absolutely love the full design! One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be a hard skin for bookstore customers to ignore.
And if you’re deciding on how to spend that Amazon gift card you got in your Christmas stocking this year, here’s a friendly reminder that “Restitution” is available for pre-order.
Last week, I finished reading an advance copy of "Dry Heat" by author Len Joy. I really enjoyed it. Len is a great writer, and I was honored when he asked me to write a blurb for this gem of a novel.
Here’s my review:
“Dry Heat” is an engrossing tale of a high school athlete, with a very promising future, whose life and aspirations are thrown into turmoil by a series of ill-fated decisions and bad luck. Author Len Joy masterfully draws in the reader through a realistic depiction of youthful innocence and naivety overwhelmed by spiraling misfortune. The well-developed characters are interesting and relatable, and the dialogue is both convincing and endearing.
The compelling drama of “Dry Heat” flows in and out of the lives of strained families, into the courtroom, and ultimately on to retrospection. At no point does the reader lose interest in the story or their deep investment in its unforgettable characters. Highly recommended.
“Dry Heat” releases in March, but you can pre-order it now.
I didn’t know what to expect a few weeks ago when my wife and I started watching “True Story” on Netflix. All I’d heard about the show was that Kevin Hart played a familiar role as a stand-up comedian, and that it had something to do with his character being caught up in organized crime.
I don’t want to give anything else away, since I think that knowing so little about the premise set up a really good viewer experience — an experience powered by surprises. A separate surprise was how good of a job Hart did in a dramatic role, and another was Wesley Snipes nearly stealing the show. But the writing was the real star.
I highly recommend the series, and I think fans of Breaking Bad will especially like it.
“Events, My Dear Boy, Events”
I’ve started to lock down some dates for my upcoming “Restitution” book tour, which you can check out here. I’ll be adding many more events after holidays, once bookstores have settled down from the holiday rush, and store managers are able to get back into event-coordination mode.
In other words, check back!
Obligatory Dragon Shot
Back in May, I featured Queensrÿche’s original 1983 EP in my newsletter, and today I’m going with the only other rare Queensrÿche vinyl piece in my collection: “The Warning”, their first full-length album that came out a year later.
The album didn’t garnish a ton of mainstream attention (that would come later in the band’s career), but a few years ago, Metal Hammer magazine ranked it the 13th best power metal album of all time. That strikes me as pretty generous, but it’s a cool record to listen to from the perspective of what the band sounded like as they were working toward bigger and better things.
The band reportedly wasn’t a big fan of the person who mixed the album (the members didn’t have as much creative control at the time), but I think songs like “Take Hold of the Flame” are pretty consistent-sounding with the big hits they’d generate a few years later.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!