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!

Swashbuckling Cats Launches Today!

Are you ready for Nine Lives on the Seven Seas?

I hope so, because Swashbuckling Cats launches today! To celebrate, I thought I’d write a bit about my story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” and give you some of the tale’s secret origin.

SwashbucklingCats-lg

Confession the first: I am not a cat person. I used to be. Before I had to live with one. I loved cats until I had a roommate with one. Then things changed. Now I guess you could say I admire the little jerks as impressive murder machines I’m glad I don’t have to share my home with.

Why the hell would I write a cat story then? Well, I happened to be on Twitter when Rhonda and her publisher at Tyche Books started joking about this anthology (this is neither a huge surprise or coincidence, I am…often on Twitter), and so I joined in the fun, tweeting silly cat GIFs, not really thinking an actual open call would happen. But when it did, since I’d been egging it on, I offered up my metaphorical axe.

Viking Cat

(Also, I also happened to have made a whiskey bet with a writing friend about which of us would sell five stories to Rhonda first. (This became story number four for me.))

The first thing that came to me for “All Cats Go to Valhalla” was my protagonist’s name. I’d had a note about a character called Kills-the-Sky in my miscellaneous writing folder for ages, but hadn’t found the right personality to attach it to, or the right story to use it in. (Fun side note: Kills-the-Sky is also the name of my Tabaxi Ranger in an online game of Curse of Strahd with some writing pals.) I couldn’t shake the image of that axe-wielding viking kitty though, so I knew I’d make the story Norse mythology based, and if I was writing a Norse myths story, why not make it a part of my Thunder Road universe?

The next part of the story to arrive was the title, which was unusual for two reasons. First, I don’t typically care for pun titles. Second, the final title is usually the last thing I type in a story, watching the end of submission window growing closer while I mutter, “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.” It was kind of refreshing to have it locked from the near the start of writing.

The plot came from a line in one of the Thunder Road books about vikings coming to North America to bury their nightmares, which had been my attempt to tie stories of Newfoundland Old Hag sleep paralysis to the myths of maras. Having the first spur of the plot, I took some historical elements, such as an article I’d read about vikings travelling with cats on their ships, and I went for it, figuring if I tried to plan too much that the cats would just have their way, anyway.

I decided not to make my viking cats anthropomorphic because I figured real cats, stuck at sea, would have its own tension even before I started throwing monsters and gods at them, and, as an added bonus, I’d be able to fit the story more neatly into my Thunder Road ‘verse. Years and years ago, I’d really enjoyed Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams, so that probably influenced me too. Finally, I pulled up lots of images of Norwegian forest cats to cast my characters, and started following Black Metal Cats on Twitter for inspiration. This story ended up a bit darker than I thought Rhonda might want, but it was the story in my head, and anyway, there’s some humour in there. And, obviously, things worked out. Rhonda liked “All Cats Go to Valhalla” enough to buy it for the anthology.

I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

Viking Cat 2

The 2020 Reading List: April

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.

April:

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan: I don’t normally read cozy mysteries, but I picked this one up because of the Halloween theme and then it sat on the shelf all winter. The heroine is an overcommitted committee member trying to solve the murder of the local pumpkin farmer. This was the second book in the series, and I haven’t read the first, but it was fun. Good amateur sleuthing that didn’t stretch credibility, interesting romantic foil, and a very personable dog. I doubt I’ll follow the series further though. I read it because of pining for Halloween, not because of the holiday planning committee theme.

One book. That’s it. Yikes. Not a great month. I did lots of idle flipping through gaming books, but that was about all the concentration I could muster, given the everything going on.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens TOC and Cover Reveal

Today is the cover reveal and table of contents announcement for Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens! I’m super excited about this one! This marks my fifth sale to one of Rhonda Parrish’s anthologies!

There’s a lot of new-to-me names in this one, so I’m excited to check out all the stories.

Whimsical, Inquisitive, Quick-Witted

Air is essential for life. The need for air is so important that breathing is instinctual. Yet Air is unstable and capricious, blowing gently as a summer breeze in one moment and blasting with the fury of a tornado in the next. No wonder that tricksters, fairies, and spirits belong to Air just as much as winged creatures. Elusive and ethereal, Air’s denizens are difficult to find and harder to capture.

Brave the ever-changing world of Air with these twenty-one stories and poems, featuring: Rose Strickman; Davian Aw; Mark Bruce; Alexandra Seidel; Damascus Mincemeyer; Cherry Potts; Ellen Huang; Giselle Leeb; Bronwynn Erskine; Kevin Cockle; Elizabeth R. McClellan; Chadwick Ginther; Christa Hogan; Rowena McGowan; Laura VanArendonk Baugh; Alyson Faye; Mara Malins; Sara C. Walker; Elise Forier Edie; Oliver Smith; and Sarah Van Goethem.

Table of Contents:

  • The Snow Wife by Rose Strickman
  • Into Thick Air by Davian Aw
  • Faery Dust by Mark Bruce
  • Of White Cranes and Blue Stars by Alexandra Seidel
  • Dead Man’s Hustle by Damascus Mincemeyer
  • Final Flight by Cherry Potts
  • The Ravens, Before Returning by Ellen Huang
  • Their Disappearing Edges by Giselle Leeb
  • Swanmaid by Bronwynn Erskine
  • The Whippoorwill by Kevin Cockle
  • Nephele, On Friday by Elizabeth R. McClellan
  • Golden Goose by Chadwick Ginther
  • The House with a Pond with a Girl In It by Christa Hogan
  • Research Log ~~33 by Rowena McGowan
  • Eiyri by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
  • Raven Girl by Alyson Faye
  • Time to Fold by Mara Malins
  • We All Fall Down by Sara C. Walker
  • The Sky Thief by Elise Forier Edie
  • Late Tuesday by Oliver Smith
  • Wind Song by Sarah Van Goethem

Air-500x775ish

The cover artist, as with all of the covers in Rhonda’s Elemental series, is Ashley Walters, who knocked it out of the park again.
My story, “Golden Goose,” is a Thunder Road ‘verse story featuring Ted and Loki. It’s not the first Thunder Road story I’ve sold, or the first one to feature Loki, but it is the first story featuring the trilogy’s protagonist, Ted Callan, that wasn’t self-published (nothing wrong with self-publishing, and I’m proud of those stories, but I’ve just always found Ted a tough nut to crack in short story length). This one was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
In addition to being my fifth story sale to Rhonda Parrish, “Golden Goose” is my third entry her Elemental anthology series! “Midnight Man versus Frankie Flame” appeared in Fire: Demons, Dragons, & Djinns, and “The Enforcer” appeared in Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles. And damn right, I’ve already started thinking about my story for when Water’s open call drops!

Music Monday: Iceolate by Front Line Assembly

While I’m getting used to the current new normal and wondering what the next changes might be to life and routine, I’m taking a blast to the past and one of the early fixations of my industrial clubbing era. Stay safe out there, friends.

Burning from the inside
Working on the ground
Iceolate the problem
Don’t let life bring you down
Seeing through the eyes of evil
Confusion takes a hold
Ignorance the sign of times
The lessons to be learned

 

The 2020 Reading List: March

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.

March:

Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire: I started this in February, had hopes about finishing it before March, but it didn’t happen. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Sarah Zellaby has always been one of my favourite minor characters in the InCryptid series, so it was nice to see her get her moment to shine. I also love that McGuire’s books have included bonus novellas.

Story Genius by Lisa Cron: I picked this one up on the recommendation of writer Delilah S. Dawson. I haven’t been much for reading books on writing since I started publishing, but this was a pretty strong recommendation from a writer whose work I admire. I only read it, I chose not to play along and do the exercises suggested by the author. I’ve been in the middle of revising a novel and don’t want to think too hard about the next one I want to write, but as with any writing advice, there’s some I hope to internalize, and some I doubt will work for me. Cron kept it interesting though, and I liked how she followed one author and one novel in progress throughout the exercises she suggests, showing the work in progress.

Bite Marks by Becky Annison: This was a Powered by the Apocalypse game that I backed on Kickstarter. After reading Monster of the Week last year, I’d hoped to maybe use this in conjunction with some of the lore from my old White Wolf World of Darkness Werewolf: The Apocalypse books, but I don’t think that’ll work out. I think this game is a bad fit for the groups I’m currently playing with, but not necessarily a bad game.

Dungeons & Dragons Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount: Based on the setting for the second Critical Role campaign. I really like this supplement. It does a lot of what the Eberron: Rising from the Last War does well. Lots of adventure opportunities and interesting new character options. I think I like it better than the previous Critical Role campaign book for Tal’Dorei, but that might be because I started watching the show with the second campaign and never really connected with the first after the fact. I’m still unlikely to run a game set in Matthew Mercer’s world, but there’s lots in here I’d borrow for a homebrew game.

I’d hoped to read more, what with social distancing and trying to stay inside as much as possible, but pandemic news has been having the same effect on my reading as it has on my writing–the siren call of the TV is even harder to ignore. Hopefully April will be better in all things. Stay safe and be well, friends.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.