2022 Mid-year Check In

So…here were my writing goals for the new year:

  • Finish my grant project (this is the big one. I made some progress in the back half of 2021, but this will have my focus for much of the first half of 2022. I have a significant number of short stories to finish drafting for this to be done, but work is ongoing, if slowed by the pandemic.
  • Finish another secret project which I can’t talk about yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as the contract is signed. It’s damn near there! One story left to draft and then some revisions down the pipeline. Hope to be able to announce it soon.
  • Draft and submit a novella, either the one I outlined in 2021, or another piece.
  • Keep my reading momentum. Since I’m hoping to get a lot of writing done, I’m setting a realistic goal of 50 books and 50 short stories read in 2022.

Pretty manageable, mostly. But that was sort of the plan. I wanted to actually set some achievable goals for 2022. Here’s how I’ve been doing:

  • Finish my grant project (this is the big one. I made some progress in the back half of 2021, but this will have my focus for much of the first half of 2022. I have a significant number of short stories to finish drafting for this to be done, but work is ongoing, if slowed by the pandemic.
  • Finish another secret project which I can’t talk about yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as the contract is signed. It’s damn near there! One story left to draft and then some revisions down the pipeline. Hope to be able to announce it soon.
  • Draft and submit a novella, either the one I outlined in 2021, or another piece.
  • Keep my reading momentum. Since I’m hoping to get a lot of writing done, I’m setting a realistic goal of 50 books and 50 short stories read in 2022.

I’m so close to finishing the grant project! And am on pace to do so on deadline. Only one story left to draft and then I just have to write up my report and tally the budget to finalize the project. I’d like to revise at least a couple more of those drafted stories over the summer too. We’ll see.

That secret project is done (drafting and substantive edits, anyway. Copy edits and page proofs are still incoming, but neither should take too long. And guess what? The secret project is more short stories! Also, it’s not so secret anymore! The announcement happened a couple weeks ago.

This fall will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of Thunder Road, and I thought a Thunder Road themed short story collection would be a fantastic way to celebrate the milestone. Fortunately, Ravenstone Books agreed! Read a bit more about the book here!

I’ll let you know more about When the Sky Comes Looking for You as soon as I can!

I haven’t started work on that novella yet. Once I’m done drafting the grant stories, I might tuck into one of the two ideas I have outlined.

Maybe I should’ve set a more ambitious reading goal…I’ve already blown past my book and story goals (I almost read 50 short stories in May alone). I’ve basically doubled my reading goals halfway through the year. I won’t get into all the details here, I’ll save the breakdown for my annual reading round up, but some excellent stories and books have been read, and I’m excited to see what jumps out at me in the back end of the year.

One thing I’ve noticed about my writing as I’ve been focusing on short stories is that the short stories are coming a little easier. This may be a factor of my different approach this year. More and more I’m going off of short snippets that were the inciting incident, or only a concept and just sitting down and writing a little bit every day until I have a first draft. Which I suppose sounds like a perfectly reasonable way to write a story, but it’s not the way I’ve usually written them. Previously, I’d stitch together bits and bobs that had no other home but felt like the might fit together. I won’t say that approach didn’t work, as I sold a lot of those stories to the markets they were intended for, but it sure was inefficient. Multiple passes reorganizing the quilt of pieces until a story took shape, and gradually stitching them together on hard copy after hard copy, building them up a little more each time writing more and more connective tissue each time, and cutting almost as many words as I wrote. I’m not saying I’ll never write a story that way again, but I think it came from a space of being tired and not wanting to waste words that already existed. I should know by now that there are always more words, there will always be more words, so get them down and fix them later rather than obsessing over trying to “save” old words I’d basically forgotten I’d written.

I think this new method of drafting has been working. So far this year I’ve drafted and submitted one story (I’ve been trying to figure this one out since I published Tombstone Blues), revised and resubmitted three stories to editorial directive, and completed nine first drafts of stories that are readable, if not ready to submit. I finished revising my first piece of flash fiction in almost a decade and submitted it to a dream venue. Among those newly drafted stories are some genres and styles I don’t typically write, so I hope they’ll find a good home. I also have at least one more short story to finish for an anthology to which I was invited to contribute.

What else has been going on in 2022, writing-wise?

Short story sale! I sold “The Empress of Marshmallow” to Pirating Pups: Salty Sea-Dogs and Barking Buccaneers! This is my seventh story sale to Rhonda Parrish. “The Empress of Marshmallow is set in the Thunder Road ‘verse, and I think makes a fun companion piece to “All Cats Go to Valhalla.”

I still really want to get back to writing novels, y’all, and I’ve got a few ideas poking around the edges of my brain, but for now, 2022 looks like a year of short fiction. If I hit all my goals early, I hope to reward myself with starting a new novel, or returning to an old novel draft as a stretch goal for the year.

So, all things being equal, I feel pretty good about how the year has gone so far reading and writing-wise.

Write on!

The 2022 To-Read List: June

Since one of my writing goals was 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 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

I’m changing how I build my to-read stacks in 2022. This year, each stack of five will have to include at least two books by women, one non-fiction book, one book by an author I know personally, and one anthology (I’m making a conscious effort to read more short stories this year). Previously my goal was 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. Creating those piles from my own shelves was starting to get tricky after two years, and I still plan on trying to read through books I’ve already purchased as much as possible. I’m going to add at least one book from the library by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author for every stack I build to continue trying to diversify my reading.

The library has become my go-to for keeping up on what’s going in comics, so I’m sure there’ll be a number of graphic novels (and roleplaying games I backed on Kickstarter) that jump the queue and end up in the piles from time to time as well.

June’s first to-read stack has a few things left over from May.

Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre, Spelunking Through Hell by Seanan McGuire, The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James, Water: Selkies, Sirens, & Sea Monsters edited by Rhonda Parrish.

I’ve almost made my way through my previous recent RPG reading stack. Which means it’s time for a new stack to start trickling in soon!

Recent roleplaying games to arrive: Dungeons & Dragons Rime of the Frostmaiden, Ravenloft When Black Roses Bloom, Sly Flourish’s The Lazy DM’s Workbook, The Black Hack Box Set, Marvel Multiverse Role-playing Game, Basic Fantasy, The Dragon Prince Tales of Xadia.

A library stack of goodies (I had to return Exit Strategy as book three didn’t arrive in time for me to read the series in sequence. This is what I get for trying to plan things).

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw, Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, Step Aside, Pops! by Kate Beaton, Shang-Chi Vol. 2 by Gene Yuen Yang, Die Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw: I’ve really enjoyed some of Khaw’s short fiction, especially their Hammers on Bone novella. Stylistically, I didn’t find this novella as interesting as Hammers on Bone, but it was still creepy as hell, with razor sharp prose, and well worth the read.

Die Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Clayton Cowles: I picked this up because I was interested in the Kickstarter running for a game based on the comic series. Loved Gillen’s world and how he integrated RPG tropes. Normally I’m not a fan of painted art in comics, but I loved Stephanie Hans’ work on this (and yes, I backed the DIE RPG Kickstarter). Gillen’s essays in the back matter on the origins and reasoning for the series are also really interesting.

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection. Grabbed this on a whim from the library while I was there to pick up another hold. I remember really enjoying Hark! A Vagrant when I read it years ago and this book was no exception.

Shang-Chi Vol.2: Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe by Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, Tríona Farrell: An excellent follow up volume. I really enjoyed Ruan’s visuals and Yang’s take on Shang-Chi.

Another library stack.

Giant-Size X-Men, Die Volume 2: Split the Party, X of Swords.

Giant-Size X-Men by Jonathan Hickman, Russell Dauterman, Alan Davis, Ramón Pérez, Rod Reis, Matthew Wilson, Carlos Lopez, David Curiel: A collection of stories highlighting individual X-Men. It was fine, the book just didn’t highlight any of my personal favourite X-Men. Can’t win ’em all.

Water: Selkies, Sirens and Sea Monsters edited by Rhonda Parrish: An anthology of water-based stories, the final volume in Parrish’s Elemental series. Fair notice, Rhonda has bought several of my stories, and one of them “Midnight Man versus Carrie Cthulhu” is included in this collection (No I did not reread my own story). I think Water is probably the element that I have the least personal connection to. “The Diviner” by Catherine MacLeod and “The Man Who Speared Octopodes” by Davide Mana were probably my favourite pieces in the collection.

X of Swords by Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, Sunny Gho, Tini Howard, Pepe Larrraz, Marte Gracia, Leah Williams, Carlos Gómez, Israel Silva, Benjamin Percy, Viktor Bogdanovic, Matthew Wilson, Vita Ayala, Matteo Lolli, Edgar Delgado, Zeb Wells, Carmen Carnero, David Curiel, Ed Brisson, Rod Reis, Gerry Duggan, Phil Noto, R.B. Silva, Nolan Woodard, Mahmud Asrar, Stefano Caselli, Joshua Cassara, Guru-eFX: This was a heckin’ chonker, as the kids say. 23 issues of X-Men comics in one volume! It’s actually pronounced Ten of Swords, but never let the X-Men not put their favourite letter in a title some way. Styled around a Tarot-themed tournament between the X-Men and mutants from another world, there was a lot to follow, lots of new characters introduced, but I really enjoyed this storyline.

Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre: I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’ve read this one before, but that could just be because I read the first volume and a novella in the series so long ago. It was fun to read some Urban Fantasy again, and I love Aguirre’s writing.

The Dragon Prince Tales of Xadia Roleplaying Game by Cam Banks and Dan Telfer: I love the Netflix series. The book is gorgeous. Fantastic art, and just really well produced. I also appreciate that the game created some new characters for this book, and most of the art relies on those characters rather than the ones from the cartoon, which makes it easier to feel like you will belong in this world as a player. Is it weird to say the book is really well indexed? Given how unfamiliar I am with the Cortex system that Tales of Xadia uses, that will definitely come in handy if I ever run the game.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire: The second book in the Wayward Children series. This one tells the tale of Jack and Jill’s time in the moors. Full of vampires and mad scientists, so of course, a really fun read.

Die Volume 2: Split the Party by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Clayton Cowles: Another gorgeously illustrated volume that plays with the tropes of roleplaying games, and a surprising connection to the Brontës. I’m really digging this series.

The Black Hack by Gold Piece Publications: A great stripped down version of a Dungeons & Dragons style roleplaying game. The box set comes with tons of goodies. The book itself is full of useful random charts and things that could be of use regardless of which edition of the game you play. The art inside is fantastic, the only decision I didn’t really agree with was presenting the female wizard character topless, which felt like an unneeded throwback to early days of the industry. However, that minor complaint aside, I really want to get this one to the table. I loved the stripped down mechanics, and I think this system will be more in my wheelhouse as a gamemaster than some of the more rules-heavy editions of the D&D.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi: It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Scalzi’s work, but I really enjoyed his Old Man’s War series. This might be my new favourite book of his, I mean, it’s got kaiju, so definitely up my alley. Fun, breezy, and so goddamn funny. The book does take place over the COVID-19 pandemic, so if you don’t want that in the background, fair warning.

X-Men: Hellfire Gala by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Edgar Delgado, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Russell Dauterman, Lucas Werneck, Sara Pichelli, Frank Martin, Matthew Wilson, Sunny Gho, Nolan Woodard, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti, Chris Claremont, John Bolton, Glynis Oliver: A collection of various titles in the X-Men side of the Marvel universe. The gala itself is a bit of a political powerplay by the mutants, and features some of the Avengers, Doctor Doom, and the Fantastic Four, but is ostensibly about introducing who the new team of X-Men will be.

Crossplay by Niki Smith: A fun erotic graphic novel following a group of cosplay friends who are exploring their gender and sexuality. I stumbled across it while searching for graphic novels on the library website and the cover was striking enough to add it to my list.

Rayguns and Robuts by Planet X Games: A fun little ‘zine that I backed on Kickstarter a while back. Well illustrated, and system neutral, so it could be used in any Golden Age or pulp style sci-fi adventure game. I don’t tend to run or play a lot of those, so I think it will be of limited use to me at the table, but it was well put together.

Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James: I didn’t finish this one. I found it very dry, which is partly because so many of the references are British writers whose work I’m either not familiar with, or have heard of but not read. I think I wanted more of a discussion about writing detective fiction, than a detailed history of the British arm of the genre.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells: Book 3 in the Murderbot Diaries series. I accidentally checked out Book 4 of the series by accident, or I tried to get them both at the same time and Book 3 arrived well after I’d returned Book 4 unread. But I’m glad I waited. This was a great entry in the series. Really looking forward to seeing what my favourite rogue SecUnit gets up to next.

Call of Cthulhu: The Arkham Gazette Issue 0 by Bret Kramer: Somehow showed up at my door when I ordered another Call of Cthulhu module from DriveThru RPG (and so did volumes 1-4). Interesting historical background of New England to use in your Call of Cthulhu campaigns, along with some scenarios and characters you can drop in. I don’t have any plans to run Call of Cthulhu anytime soon, but some of my friends really enjoy the game, so I might pass these on to them to use.

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.

Check out my roundup of my 2021 reading here.

Check out my roundup of my 2020 reading here.