The 2020 Reading List: September

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in the order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).

Here’s the to-read stack for September!

to read september

I’m hoping to make it through all of these due to Halloween-related reasons. I want to curate a spoopy reading list for October.

September:

Vaesen: A Wicked Secret by Free League: A companion book of four mysteries for use with the Vaesen Nordic Horror Roleplaying Game, also from Kickstarter. I really enjoyed reading each of the four mysteries. I think they’d all bring something interesting to the table. I typically don’t run modules when I run games, and because of that I think the book’s layout might cause me some consternation when I try to run these, but with a bit of extra prep, that’ll be a small issue. The mysteries cover a number of different locales and seasons, which is great. They’re all rural though, and I kind of wish there was at least one in the city where the players are supposed to be based.

Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (translated by David Karashima): A short little crime adjacent book full of kind of shitty people who were very compelling to read about. Body modification is a big theme, the book’s title gets its Snakes from a character who split his tongue, and its narrator who’s obsessed with getting larger and larger plugs for her earrings, and later decides to pursue forking her own tongue. Pain and pleasure bleed together in this twisted story. If any of Kanehara’s other works are translate into English, I’d check them out.

Kraken Bake by Karen Dudley: The second book in Dudley’s Epikurean Epic novels. This one was sort of a reread, as I read the book back when it was in manuscript format. It was even funnier than I remembered! Anachronistic and punny in delicious way. While I’m sad there don’t seem to be any more books in her series, Dudley gives the beleaguered Pelops a good send off here, and it makes for a satisfying ending for the character.

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice: I first encountered Waubgeshig Rice when he read from his story collection Midnight Sweatlodge at Winnipeg’s THIN AIR festival. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, ever since I saw Rice on a panel about the Indigenous post-apocalypse at a convention in Ottawa. This was a tough read at times, but worth it, I think. It hit home reading about a mysterious apocalypse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while maybe not my smartest choice of reading material for these anxious days, I also found I couldn’t put it down. Really looking forward to reading more of Rice’s work.

We Don’t Need Another Hero by Sierra Dean: I’m most familiar with Dean’s Secret McQueen series, but this was a fun little one off. I burned through this one, and sorry-not-sorry for the pun considering the protagonist Rebecca “Bex” Beckett has fire control powers. This is a superhero story, and I’d like to see Dean play in this genre playground again even if she doesn’t return to these particular characters.

Hellboy Volume 2: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola: This was a reread. I finished We Don’t Need Another Hero but wasn’t ready to start a new book right before going to sleep, but also wasn’t ready to go to sleep, so I grabbed one of the nearest graphic novels I could reach. This has long been one of my favourite arcs in the Hellboy series, and I’m pretty stoked about the upcoming Hellboy RPG, so this whim may have spurred a full series reread.

Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola and John Byrne: Another reread. “May have” indeed. Rereading the first Hellboy collection reminds me how much I loved Guillermo del Toro’s take on the character, how badly I wanted to see a third movie starring Ron Perlman, and how disappointed I was in the most recent cinematic outing. The story and Mignola’s art is definitely holding up better than my old paperback, which is starting to show its use!

Hellboy Volume 3: The Chained Coffin and Other Stories by Mike Mignola: Another reread. I think this is one of my favourite collections in the Hellboy series. I love the anthology style for a character like Hellboy, lots of short bursts of weirdness from various points in the character’s career. I also appreciate the little asides Mignola offers before each story about its origin.

Hellboy Volume 4: The Right Hand of Doom by Mike Mignola: Continuing my Hellboy reread. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the previous collection, but it does include what is probably my favourite three panel sequence in comics. Also, Hellboy falls through a lot more floors than I remembered.

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Hellboy Volume 5: The Conqueror Worm by Mike Mignola: Lobster Johnson! This volume was my first introduction to Mignola’s pulp-inspired hero. Characters like Lobster Johnson, the Shadow, and the Phantom are definitely my jam. One of the reasons I created my Midnight Man character for short stories was to dip my toes in that pool. A big turning point for Hellboy in this volume, which I really enjoyed revisiting.

Hellboy Volume 6: Strange Places by Mike Mignola: Another anthology of shorter tales, and one that also contains another of my favourite Hellboy panels. I think some of the stories in this one came out around the same time as the Hellboy movie, so Mignola wanted to get out ahead of it with some of the origin of his cosmic horror side of the ‘verse.

drinking with skeletons

Hellboy Volume 7: The Troll Witch and Other Stories by Mike Mignola, P. Craig Russell, and Richard Corben: Another anthology of shorter tales, and the last one in my personal collection. Not my favourite Hellboy volume, even if I loved the titular story. I’ve found over the years I don’t enjoy reading Hellboy when it isn’t also illustrated by Mignola. Artist Duncan Fegredo comes closest for me, but this was the point where I stopped buying the book. Might have to check out further volumes again from the library down the road and get caught up.

The Science of Monsters: The Origins of the Creatures We Love to Fear by Matt Kaplan: I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting with this one, but it somehow didn’t fulfill those nebulous expectations. Kaplan organized it in a sort of chronological run through the human-monster experience, which led to a bit of my disappointment, as I didn’t particularly enjoy ending the book with a chapter on aliens. I understand the why, it just wasn’t what I wanted. Despite that issue, The Science of Monsters was an entertaining read (I particularly enjoyed the salty footnotes) but it didn’t make me wish to rush out to try Kaplan’s follow up, Science of the Magical. Maybe someday.

Atomic Robo Volume 1: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Another reread started because I finished a book before I was ready to go to sleep. I can clearly see the line from my Hellboy reread to the start of my Atomic Robo reread. They share a lot of similar bones, and I think both heroes would get along, and enjoy using their violence on giant monsters, extradimensional threats, and undying Nazi scientists. Atomic Robo has a more science fiction feeling compared to the folklore and cosmic horror of Hellboy, and the humour is a little more in your face, but I love it.

Here’s what I’ve got on deck for October!

October to-read

You may notice there’s six books instead of my usual five, but I’ve reread A Night in the Lonesome October a chapter a night in October for the last several years, and 2020 isn’t taking that away from me. You may also notice a CZP title in there, and while I’ve severed ties with them, I purchased this before that went down and I don’t want to punish the author. David Demchuck got the rights back to the book, and I believe there’s a new edition pending, so check that one out if it intrigues and support another author who was taken advantage of by their publisher.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

Here’s what I read in August.

StoryBundle Interview

Douglas Smith interviewed me recently as part of the Dark Fantasy and SF Exclusive StoryBundle featuring a bunch of former ChiZine authors.

Check it out! This StoryBundle is only available until September 9th, 2020!

All Covers Large

And don’t forget to check out these interviews Douglas Smith did with my fellow bundle authors:

Matt Moore

Claude Lalumière

Tone Milazzo

Paul Di Filippo

Tombstone Blues and Too Far Gone in a New StoryBundle!

I’m thrilled to have Tombstone Blues and Too Far Gone in a new fantasy and SF StoryBundle! Both Thunder Road and Graveyard Mind have been parts of previous successful bundles, so now’s a fantastic chance to complete the collection, and support a bunch of my fellow former ChiZine authors at the same time!

Check out the details below in Douglas Smith’s introduction to the StoryBundle:

THE EXCLUSIVE DARK FANTASY AND SF BUNDLE

The Exclusive Dark Fantasy and SF Bundle – Curated by Douglas Smith

2020 has been a scary year. Like some dark fantasy or horror story. Or a dystopian tale about the end of the world.

So…

Why not embrace that spirit? Show this year from hell that you can take whatever it dishes out, because you know what dark fantasies and horror stories are really like. And you’ve seen more ends of the world than 2020 could even dream of.

Because you’ve read the stories in this amazing and exclusive bundle.

Read about curses and ghosts, about Norse gods on the Canadian prairies and what happens after Ragnarök and the end of the world. Read how life on Earth may end if we don’t stop killing our planet. Read twenty-one tales of personal apocalypses (because someone’s world is always ending), and stories from a very special and very strange bookstore. Read about post-human biopunk and day-after-tomorrow climate change adventure. Read about the boy who is either a scrawny, bullied, neglected son of insane parents or the imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to the goddess of discord.

I’m curating a new Dark Fantasy & SF bundle for StoryBundle.com, a remarkable set of eleven titles by bestselling authors and rising stars. As always, at StoryBundle, you name your own price—whatever you feel the books are worth, and a portion of the proceeds goes to charity (in this case, Black Lives Matter (Canada)).

It is only fitting that this Dark Fantasy & SF bundle was born from a dark event. In late 2019, the award-winning Canadian small press, ChiZine Publications, imploded under the weight of multiple complaints over non-payment of royalties and other issues.

Some good came from the collapse, as the publisher agreed to revert all rights for any title requested by an author. But that meant those titles were no longer available for readers like you to buy and enjoy from your favorite retailer.

So this bundle was born, containing several titles originally published by ChiZine but now independently published exclusively for this bundle. Right now, this bundle is the ONLY place you can buy these former CZP titles. The bundle also features other titles by former CZP authors, including books 2 and 3 in Chadwick Ginther’s critically-acclaimed Thunder Road trilogy.

This exclusive bundle runs for three weeks only. This is a fantastic deal and a great way to pick up a batch of wonderful stories, most of which are not currently available anywhere else, all for one low price. – Douglas Smith

* * *

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Picking Up the Ghos tby Tone Milazzo (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Wasps at the Speed of Sound by Derryl Murphy (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther

 

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more books, for a total of eleven!

  • Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Bullettime by Nick Mamatas (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • It’s Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Chimerascope by Douglas Smith
  • Over the Darkened Landscape by Derryl Murphy (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Too Far Gone by Chadwick Ginther

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Black Lives Matter (Canada)!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

 

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

The 2020 Reading List: August

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).

IMG_20200807_163037_231.jpg

August:

A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King: I don’t often enjoy superhero novels, and yet, I almost always seek them out to read them. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Tom King’s comic work, so I had high hopes for this one going in. A Once Crowded Sky includes comic panels featuring its heroes as well as script pages. It was a bit more meta than I typically want to see from superhero fiction, but that’s pretty common when superheroes turn up in literary fiction. My minor personal taste complaints aside, King did a good job deconstructing superheroic storytelling.

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn: I hadn’t intended to follow up one superhero novel with another, but that’s the way things worked out. This one read more as an urban fantasy style than superhero to me, but it was so much fun. Grabbed me immediately the way other UF series by Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, and Patricia Briggs have in the past. So glad there’s more books available in the series.

Amuse Bouche by Anthony Bidulka: The first Russell Quant mystery. Russell’s a gay P.I. based in Saskatoon living a big life in a small city. I enjoyed Russell as a character, not the typical complete asshole PI that usually end up reading about. Somehow I’ve managed to collect the entire series except for book 2, so it might a be a while before I continue with it, but I’d happily read more.

The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe: The first Eddie LaCrosse novel. Fun little sword and sorcery mystery with noir flavour. I got this one in my book bag when I attended World Fantasy Con, and Alex was in attendance, so I was lucky enough to get it signed. I’d read more of Eddie’s adventures!

In for a Pound by SG Wong: The Second Lola Starke novel. It’s been a while since I read the third book in the series, which was my introduction to Lola, but I think In for a Pound is my favourite. SG Wong hit my reading sweet spot with the pacing on this one, and I just burned through it. Also, when you know a character is going to die because the back cover tells you so, but you still want them to stick around and make the protagonist happy, the author has really got you with a short number of pages. I’m sad I’m done with the series, but I think there’s a few short stories set in Lola Starke’s Crescent City, which I’ll be seeking out.

Grizzlyville by Jake MacDonald: One of the reasons I wanted to read this one, other than bears are neat, is that I bought a copy for my dad years ago and he liked it. Less a book about bears as a book filled with stories about the people who live around, and seek out, the bears of North America. In three separate sections featuring grizzlies, black bears, and polar bears, MacDonald displays an impressive raconteur voice. I feel like some bits of the book might not have aged well in the years since publication, but the whole of it was still enjoyable.

I made it through the inaugural reading stack in the same month I chose it! I honestly wasn’t expecting that. I feel like this was my best reading month of the year so far in 2020.

Looking forward to building the to-read pile for September. What are you reading right now?

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

The 2020 Reading List: July

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

July: 

Eberron: Five Nations by Bill Slavicsek, David Noonan, Christopher Perkins: This was a reread. One of my favourite supplements for the 3/3.5 era of D&D, even though I’ve never actually played or ran a game set in Eberron. I’ve been revisiting some of the old Eberron material, as I think the next time I run D&D 5e, I’ll be using this setting instead of my usual go-to of Mystara. I’m still really happy with this book, it has lots of system-agnostic information that can be uses regardless of which version of D&D you prefer.

Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying by Free League: Another Kickstarter prize! I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Like Forbidden Lands, it uses the Mutant Year Zero rules engine, and I’m quite fond of the system. The art is amazing and evocative, and as the person who will likely need to run the game for my group, I particularly liked how the designers spelled out how to run a mystery adventure in the context of the Mythic North. Really can’t wait to get this  one to the table!

Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide by Ghostfire Gaming: Another Kickstarter prize! This campaign setting is for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, and has some interesting variant rules for a more grim and gritty style of play and mechanics I haven’t seen before. I especially liked the Advanced Background System which could have interesting ramifications for a city based game and Character Transformations which allow players to become a Lich, Fiend, Lycanthrope, or other powerful creatures. I doubt I’ll actually use the world of Etharis, as I usually go with a game world I’m already familiar with, or just homebrew my own, but if I do, my order came with a sweet fabric map that I’ll enjoy laying out on the table.

City of Broken Magic by Mariah Bolender: This was my first Did Not Finish of the year. I really liked a lot of the worldbuilding, the narrator’s voice was interesting, but ultimately, the plot didn’t hold me and I gave up about half way through. I took a bit of a break when two of my Kickstarter games arrived, to jump on those, so maybe that was the cause.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Half-Year Check In

So here’s what I planned to accomplish for 2020 back in January:

  • Decide what to do with Graveyard Mind and Graveyard Mind 2 and implement those plans.
  • Revise An Excuse for Whiskey.
  • Finish short stories I’ve started but not completed. As before, I would like to get at least six new stories out the door this year, but this year I’d also like to write one of those stories for submission to the online pro markets rather than for open call themed anthologies, as is my usual way.
  • Finish revising my WIP novel and get it out on submission.
  • Restart the agent hunt.
  • Read more.

Stretch goal!

  • If I get my WIP out on submission, and Sandra and I finish An Excuse for Whiskey by November, I’ll take a run at NaNoWriMo again.

Holy shit. That list seems ridiculously optimistic looking back with hindsight. I’m still hopeful that I’ll find Graveyard Mind a home with a new publisher, but there’s nothing to report yet. I have received my final royalty statement from CZP, with (hopefully) my final royalty payment arriving imminently. It’ll be nice for that chapter of the novel’s story to be finally closed. Unfortunately, until I find Graveyard Mind a new home, or choose to self publish a new edition, its sequel will remain lying fallow.

Sandra Wickham and I have agreed to put An Excuse for Whiskey on hold for the time being. She’s launching her new fitness website and doing the pandemic single-mom thing, so she’s got her hands full. (You should totally check out Sandra’s fitness programs, she really knows what she’s doing, and has offered me plenty of advice in the last year and a half as I became more serious about losing some weight and getting into better shape.) Lately, revisions haven’t been my bag, so…someday I hope we’ll get back to it. We’re both still really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far with our first attempt at co-writing. Sandra’s one hell of a writing and critique partner, so I’m looking forward to when we’re both able to get this project done and on submission.

Short stories have been going a bit better. I’ve finished one novelette of my six new story challenge and am closing in on another short story. Both stories are for general submission not a specific anthology, which I haven’t done in ages. The novelette is roughly 13000 words, and the short story is currently around 7000, so I’m tempted to count them as three (or four) of my six stories, as the novelette felt like four times the work to edit. I’ll wait and see on that. It’s not really in the spirit of the challenge, is it? In other short story news, my story “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” was longlisted for the Sunburst Award, my story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” released in Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas, and my story “Golden Goose” sold to Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens, due to be released in August! Golden Goose is my fifth sale to Rhonda Parrish, which is awesome, and also makes me three for three (so far) on her Elemental anthology series. If I sell a story to the eventual Water anthology it’ll be like getting a rare Enlightenment Victory in my old Legend of the Five Rings card playing days.

As I said in an interview with Derek Newman-Stille, I gave up on the revisions I’d been working on in favour of trying to draft a new book in this strange pandemic moment. This is the book that I’ve kept promising myself I would start “when I’d crossed a few more items off the old list” but I never got there. This was the book that was going to be my NaNoWriMo stretch goal for the year. I’ve been working on the worldbuilding and history of this secondary world for ages now, but wouldn’t allow myself to actually do any drafting or prose. Now seemed like the perfect time to dive in. Currently, I’m at 41000 words, which means probably about halfway to a finished discovery draft; 30000 words is when a draft usually starts to feel like a book to me, but this one isn’t quite to that feeling yet. I think I’ve figured out what I want the finale to be, but I’m uncertain of the best steps to get through the soggy middle to get there. Nevertheless, I’m hoping to have a draft done by the end of the summer. We’ll see.

I can’t really start the agent hunt until I have a finished book, so that item is on hold for now, but I am updating my wish list of agents to submit to a bit at a time, so that when I’m ready, I am ready. I’ve also been working on a grant proposal project for Manitoba Arts Council and possibly the Canada Arts Council. My sample materials are done, and I have an idea of what I’m going to say, I just have to finish the actual application parts. MAC’s applications changed in recent years, so I’m building a new template from scratch.

As for my reading goals, I must say I’m enjoying tracking this a little bit more. So far I’ve read twenty-seven books, a combination of novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, and roleplaying games (check out my reading list so far here). When I started writing these mini reviews, I first just grabbed whatever was handy and seemed shiny. Since then, I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!). For now, especially due to COVID-19, and having hoarded some of these books for so long, I’m still trying to pull most of these titles from my existing shelves, rather than going out an buying more. I’ve been trying to stick to a finish two books I’ve already purchased before buying any new books plan since I moved last summer anyway.

Regardless of how my other 2020 goals shake down, I’m going to pass on NaNoWriMo this year, and I think, every year going forward. Starting a new book and just writing at my own pace has been really enjoyable, and since my last few NaNo attempts have led to one book that took me forever to revise to my satisfaction, another that I still haven’t revised to my satisfaction, and a third that’s on hold until I find a home for Graveyard Mind, it’s just creatively not for me. Also, the last couple times I’ve participated it’s been more of a “holy shit, I haven’t written as many words as I’d hoped for this year, quick, lets get some points on the board before the year’s over” and those words haven’t proven to be terribly productive, let alone any fun.

A few things have changed since I spoke to Derek, but I’m still trying to write, and take care of myself, and stay in touch with my friends as I can. I was also recently a guest on the Seangeek Podcast, where we talked about writing, tabletop gaming, and comics. Sean was also kind enough to review Graveyard Mind previously on the podcast.

That’s it for the first half of my 2020. I hope you’re all staying as well as can be.

 

The 2020 Reading List: June

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

June: 

Domino: Hotshots by Gail Simone, David Baldeón, Michael Shelfer, Jim Charalampidis: Read as single issues, not a collected trade, like last month’s War of the Realms. I initially picked up Gail Simone’s prior Domino series because of  the Baldeón cover. I’ve never been a huge fan of the character, but I hadn’t kept up with her really since her debut back in the New Mutants/X-Force days. Simone’s Birds of Prey run was tons of fun though, so I took a chance, and really dug it. (Not gonna lie, Simone using Diamondback, one of my all time fav lesser known Marvel characters didn’t hurt.) I think the Hotshots series came out around my move last year which is why it took so long to get to it. Lots of fun! The art was as kinetic as ever, even though I found Baldeón’s art more suited to the story than the pages done by Shelfer. I missed the tighter dynamic of Domino, Diamondback and Outlaw from the previous series, and the generally more personal stakes, but it was fun to see Domino interacting with Black Widow, and with some of the more cosmic elements of the Marvel universe.

Criminal: Bad Weekend by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: The kickoff of the lastest run of Criminal monthly comics. Also reading these as single issues (#1-4). One sweet thing about the Criminal single issues, is each one contains a noir essay in the back. This one has some great comic convention references and a stolen original art plot. Loved it!

Criminal: Cruel Summer by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: I read this volume as single issues (#5-12). Obsessed private detective, femme fatale, broken down gangster looking for a big job. Lots of noir tropes (tropes I love, to be honest) that Brubaker and Phillips make work and feel fresh. Phillips’ expressions are so fantastic.

Thor Vol. 1 God of Thunder Reborn by Jason Aaron, Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward, and Tony Moore: I read this volume as single issues (#1-7). This takes place before the War of the Realms limited series that I read previously. Reading through this run on Thor might’ve helped my enjoyment of that series, but such is life. I preferred the issues with Mike Del Mundo’s art, as I loved his work on Weirdworld back in Marvel’s Secret Wars days, but I also loved Christian Ward’s art on Black Bolt. The Tony Moore issue was a fun flashback to the days of a young Thor, before he earned Mjolnir. Moore’s style felt more suited to a modern book like Walking Dead than a viking-era fantasy to me.

The Peripheral by William Gibson: It’s been a while since I’ve checked out anything by Gibson…Spook Country, I think. This was a great read. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got, and yet, the book felt both entirely prescient and completely reflecting its time, which is typical Gibson. Every time I read one of his books there’s a bare minimum one line that makes me put down the book and go, “Hmm. Nobody else would’ve said that this way.” Apparently Gibson’s most recent novel, Agency, is both a sequel and a prequel to this one. I’ll probably check it out down the road, when I feel up to reading anything that touches on the 2016 U.S. election.

Next on deck for the reading pile: City of Broken Magic by Mariah Bolender and A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Cheating the Devil at Solitaire Makes the Sunburst Longlist!

Holy shit, my story “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” published in On Spec Magazine made the Sunburst Award longlist! There’s so many great writers on that list whose work I admire. I’m absolutely thrilled to be named among them, and am looking forward to reading the authors whose work I wasn’t familiar with.

From the Sunburst Award Website:

We are proud to announce the longlists for the 2020 SUNBURST AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN CANADIAN LITERATURE OF THE FANTASTIC

Toronto, Ontario (June 8, 2020): The Sunburst Award Committee is pleased to announce the 2020 longlist for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. This year’s lists are comprised of a mixture of established authors, talented newcomers and several past nominees.

Below are the works longlisted by the juries, with links to their publishers, books and stories (where possible).

ADULT FICTION:

YOUNG ADULT FICTION:

SHORT STORY:

The Sunburst official Short list will be announced in July. Sunburst winners will be announced in September.

Jurors for the 2020 Award are: Peter Darbyshire , Kristyn Dunnion, Omar El Akkad, Michelle Butler Hallett,  John Jantunen, Michael Johnstone, Ursula Pflug,  and Sarah Tolmie.

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is an annual award celebrating the best in Canadian fantastika published during the previous calendar year. Winners receive a medallion that incorporates the Sunburst logo. Winners of both the Adult and Young Adult Sunburst Award also receive a cash prize of $1,000, while winners of the Short Story Award receive a cash prize of $500.

The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian Speculative Fiction. Past winners of the Sunburst Award include Andromeda Romano-Lax, Rachel Hartman, Senaa Ahmad, David Demchuk, Cherie Dimaline, Cory Doctorow, Charles De Lint, Nalo Hopkinson and Thomas King.

For additional information about the Sunburst Award, the nominees, juries, as well as previous awards, eligibility, and the selection process, please visit the official website of the Sunburst Award.

The 2020 Reading List: May

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

May:

Tiny Gunslingers by Gallant Knight Games: A minimalist western game. I’ve loved all the Tiny D6 games I’ve picked up so far, even if I haven’t played them as much as I’d like. I have a plan for this one though (Sigh. I have a plan for all of them). I especially like the shootout mechanic which uses playing cards and Blackjack rules to resolve, which feels like the iaijutsu duel mechanic from early editions of Legend of the Five Rings.

Beak, Feather, & Bone by Tyler Crumrine, Austin Breed, and Jonathan Yee: This is another Kickstarter game, a ‘zine-length competitive map labeling RPG and worldbuilding tool. I’ll probably be using it more for the later than the former, but it looks great, the rules read well, and it should be a fun way to spend an evening regardless of motive for playing. Also, loved the ravenfolk art by Austin Breed.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: I started this one back in March and was loving it up until about a quarter of the way through, and then the everything happened with the real world and wouldn’t let up. I set it down meaning to get back to it, and it took me a while to regain my focus–my issue, no fault with Jemisin’s writing, which was superb–but once I did pick it up again, it was a race to the finish. What a goddamned great book. I’ve never been to New York but The City We Became felt both true to the New York that I’ve seen dramatized and at the same time so much deeper. I hope I get to see the real place some day.

War of the Realms by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson: I loved most of Jason Aaron’s run on Marvel’s Thor comics, but this book wasn’t to my taste. Dauterman’s art is as gorgeous as it ever was. Maybe if I’d read more of the ancillary issues tie-in issues my opinion might’ve changed, but I’m never a fan of Marvel’s big crossover events, and a book needs to stand on its own.

Forbidden Lands Player’s Guide by Free League: This was a reread. I’d missed a bunch of game sessions in a friend’s ongoing campaign, and now that I’ve been back a bit more regularly, I decided to refresh myself on the rules. Found a bunch of stuff I’d forgotten. Still love this game. A great, but deadly, hex-crawler with swift and deadly combat.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Feline Friday

So here’s a fine looking feline from my story “Cats Go to Valhalla.”

I really dig how this turned out! The artist, Katie Glauber, totally captured the essence of the kitty named Fairweather. I won’t say more about why I love this smirking cat for spoiler-rific reasons, but I’m so glad Swashbuckling Cats editor Rhonda Parrish commissioned illustrations for the anthology launch.

Check out Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas available now from Tyche Books!

Write on!