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.

When the Sky Comes Looking for You: Short Trips Down the Thunder Road

The news is out!

I’m super chuffed to be able to announce this expansion to the Thunder Road Trilogy. More details to follow soon, but in the meantime, the official press release is below!

Photo credit: Ashley MacLennan

Turnstone Press is pleased to announce the upcoming fall 2022 release of Chadwick Ginther’s new short fiction collection, When the Sky Comes Looking for You: Short Trips Down the Thunder Road, scheduled to be released under Turnstone’s Ravenstone Imprint.

Come along for another trip down Thunder Road. It has been 10 years since Ted Callan’s fateful encounter with a roomful of dwarves and his world exploded with gods and monsters, giants, witches, and more.

In this anniversary collection, When the Sky Comes Looking for You expands upon the Thunder Road trilogy with a series of short stories, both loved and brand new, from acclaimed author Chadwick Ginther.

Chadwick Ginther is the Prix Aurora Award nominated author of Graveyard Mind and the Thunder Road Trilogy. His short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, his story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” won the 2021 Prix Aurora Award for Best Short Story. He lives and writes in Winnipeg, Canada, spinning sagas set in the wild spaces of Canada’s western wilderness where surely monsters must exist.

Established in 1998, Ravenstonean imprint of Turnstone Press, publishes some of the most exciting mysteries, thrillers, cli-fi, and speculative fiction in Canada.

Rights inquiries about When the Sky Comes Looking for You should be directed to rights@turnstonepress.com.

The 2022 To-Read List: May

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) that jump the queue and end up in the piles from time to time as well.

May’s to-read stack has a few things I’ve been looking forward to for a while.

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.

An ambitious pile of library books also arrived just in time for me to start a fresh month’s reading.

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones, Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood, The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty, Strikeforce: Trust Me by Tini Howard, A Blanket of Butterflies by Richard Van Camp and Scott Henderson, Aquaman Volume 3: Echoes of a Life Well Lived by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Star Wars Vol. 3: War of the Bounty Hunters.

And a ton of roleplaying game books also arrived very closely together!

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.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft: When Black Roses Bloom: A 2nd edition D&D module I received as a gift. Combines elements of both the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings. As with most modules, I doubt I’d run it as is, neither Ravenloft or Dragonlance are my go-to settings, but it definitely contains elements I’d steal for some other adventure.

Strikeforce: Trust Me by Tini Howard, Germán Peralta, Jacopo Camagni, Jordie Bellaire, Miroslave Mrva, Guru-eFX: I picked this up because I really enjoyed Howard’s run on Excalibur recently. Lots of minor, or lesser known characters share the stage in this book: Spider-Woman, Angela of Asgard, Blade, Winter Soldier, Spectrum, Wiccan, and Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. It almost worked for me. Maybe if the collection had more resolution rather than leaving off on a cliffhanger I’d be interested in more, but I don’t think I’ll read volume two. I’ll keep checking out Howard’s work on other books though.

A Blanket of Butterflies by Richard Van Camp, Scott B. Henderson: Part of the Debwe series of Indigenous writers from across Canada, which is “created in the spirit of the Anishinaabe concept debwe (to speak the truth). I’ve always enjoyed Van Camp’s writing, and Henderson’s art is as detail oriented and crisp as ever. A powerful read.

Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood: Another Phryne Fisher mystery. More problematic moments than I’m used to, but still an enjoyable read with caveats. If you’re sensitive to portrayals of Roma and transgender people this could be a tough read. I think the author was coming at these portrayals from a good place, but they don’t really hold up to today’s standards of representation.

Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty: Book two in the series. I’ve really enjoyed Chakraborty’s work. Looking forward to finishing the trilogy!

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones: Another winner. Jones managed to play with my expectations, and surprise me pleasantly (maybe horrifically, is more accurate?) throughout the novella. At this rate, I’m basically upgrading the author to read on sight.

Aquaman Vol. 4: Echoes of a Life Lived Well by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jordan Clark, Miguel Mendonça, Robson Rocha: Feels like a natural end to DeConnick’s take on the character. I think this was an excellent run.

Another library stack arrived!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Red X by David Demchuk, Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, X-Men Vol. 3 by Jonathan Hickman

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: First in McGuire’s Wayward Children novella series. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but in a good way. I’ll definitely be continuing on with the series.

X-Men Vol. 3 by Jonathan Hickman, Phil Noto, Brett Booth, Mahmud Asrar, Francesco Mobili, Adelso Corono, Sunny Gho: Another volume in Hickman’s revamp of the X-Men. I think I read this out of order (I believe X of Swords was the next volume chronologically). But it still read okay, despite that. My biggest complaint with Hickman’s stint on X-Men is my usual complaint about trying to follow the X-Men side of the Marvel universe is the sheer volume of titles makes it hard to keep up and keep the story straight, and reading it from the library makes that a little trickier when you time your holds poorly. Can’t blame that one on the author though!

Astonishing Super Heroes Basic Rulebook by Tim Bannock: A retro clone rules set inspired by TSR’s old Marvel Super Heroes roleplaying game (which is one of my favourite systems from my youth) and I think it does some great things, and I think fixes a few issues I’ve had when I’ve tried to run the game recently. Still, without a robust character creation element within (a download of the Beta test rules came with purchase, but still…), it feels like an incomplete game to me.

Red X by David Demchuk: A great read. Mixing horror and memoir with a backdrop of Toronto’s gay village murders. I always thought if I ever got another writer’s words tattooed on my body it would be Roger Zelazny’s “Talk is cheap, whiskey costs money” but Red X might just be the source of my next tattoo. David’s words, “I hope you have a better ending ahead than the one I would write for you” are probably going to stay with me forever.

Spelunking Through Hell by Seanan McGuire: An Incryptid novel. McGuire finally gets to the story of Alice Healy. Not a read for someone not already invested in the series, even thought it’s the first POV novel for this character. Also contains the Incryptid novella “And Sweep Up the Wood” which gives a bit more background on Alice and Thomas Price, her long missing husband.

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.

Check out my roundup of my 2021 reading here.

Check out my roundup of my 2020 reading here.

Pirating Pups Table of Contents

The table of contents for Pirating Pups is now live, and so are the preorder links. I’m over the moon that “The Empress of Marshmallow” was selected as the lead story in the anthology, that’s a first for me, landing one of the anchor stories. I’m also thrilled to share another TOC with my pals V.F. LeSann and E.C. Bell, and I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s stories.

“The Empress of Marshmallow” takes place in Gimli, Manitoba, and features a young Tilda before the events of Thunder Road, and is narrated by an obstinate chow chow. I hope you’ll check it out. It feels like a nice companion piece to “All Cats Go to Valhalla” if you enjoyed that one, you should enjoy this one.

Is this my last animal protagonist story? Probably, unless Rhonda releases an Freebooting Fowl collection.

Pirating Pups: Salty Sea-Dogs and Barking Buccaneers, Edited by Rhonda Parrish

Print ISBN: 978-1-989407-47-9

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-989407-48-6

X Marks More Than One Spot

Enter a world of Barking Buccaneers, where piratical dogs sail the seas, seeking one tail-chasing adventure after another. Whether dealing with sea monsters, the doldrums, or bitter betrayal, these dogs have a true nose for adventure and always dig up their buried treasure.

Featuring thirteen daring “tails” of dogs, puns, and fun by: Chadwick Ginther; Jennifer Lee Rossman; Meghan Beaudry; Kristen Brand; Richard Lau; V.F. LeSann; Alice Dryden; Melanie Marttila; Mathew Austin; JB Riley; Frances Pauli; George Jacobs; and E. C. Bell.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

The Empress of Marshmallow — Chadwick Ginther
Davy Bones and the Domestication of the Dutchman —Jennifer Lee Rossman
Johnson the Terror — Meghan Beaudry
Ghost Pirate Dognapper — Kristen Brand
Blackbark’s Collar — Richard Lau
Let the Water Drink First — V.F. LeSann
New Tricks — Alice Dryden
Torvi, Viking Queen — Melanie Marttila
Under the Curse of Jupiter — Mathew Austin
The Boomer Bust — JB Riley
What Gold Smells Like — Author Frances Pauli
Artistic Appropriation — George Jacobs
What Frisky Wrought When the Wheels Fell Off the World — E.C. Bell

Pirating Pups releases August 9th, preorder now!

The 2022 To-Read List: April

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) that jump the queue and end up in the piles from time to time as well.

The City of Brass by S.A.Chakraborty: I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages. Courtesy of the gorgeous cover, I suppose, which certainly intrigued me enough to try a new-to-me author. I really enjoyed it. I found the book a bit slow at the start, but that sensation didn’t last long. Will definitely continue with the series.

Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood: I’d given up on this one every arriving from the library, but lo, the missing copy must’ve finally been turned in! It was fun, as the Miss Fisher mysteries usually are.

Silk: Threats and Menaces by Maurene Goo, Takeshi Miyazawa, Ian Herring: My first exposure to Silk. Really enjoyed Miyazawa’s art. Will probably read more of this character, given the opportunity.

Aquaman Vol. 3: Manta vs. Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kyle Higgins, Vita Ayala, Robson Rocha, Eduardo Pansica, Jesús Merino, Aaron Lopresti, Victor Ibáñez: Not my favourite volume of DeConnick’s run, but I’m still really enjoying her take on Aquaman.

Zatanna Vol. 1 by Paul Dini: A reread. Still love Dini’s take on the character, and I still wish Saiz handled art for the entire series.

Roleplaying Game to-read stack: Noir World by John Adamus, Jackals by John Matthew DeFoggi, Hellboy the Roleplaying Game, Dungeons & Dragons: Call of the Netherdeep, Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition.
March/April’s to-read stack: By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates, A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford, Thunder Road by Sierra Dean, The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley, Alternate Plains edited by Darren Ridgley & Adam Petrash.

Alternate Plains edited by Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash: Disclosure, I have a story in this one (“Lurkers in the Leaves” which I didn’t reread) and Darren and Adam have published another of my stories in Parallel Prairies. I really enjoyed this anthology. Standout stories for me were by S.M. Beiko and David Demchuk.

OnSpec #115 Vol. 31 No.1: Technically a magazine, but enough short stories within that I’m counting it as one of my books. My favourite story in this issue was Lee F. Patrick’s “Between the Worlds.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren by Charles Soule, Will Sliney: While I didn’t mind Kylo Ren as a villain in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, I’m not sure I really needed to read more about his fall into darkness. Soule does a good job on keeping the story moving. For the most part Sliney does a good job of capturing Adam Driver as Ben Solo and Mark Hammill as Luke Skywalker, but one of my biggest complaints of any of the modern Star Wars comics is the likenesses of any of the actors never feel right to me. I wish they’d go for more a stylized image that “feels” like the character instead of aiming for an portrait accurate representation.

A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford: Enjoyed this one more than I expected. I’m never a fan of mixing 1st person POV and 3rd person POV characters in the same text, but it worked well enough to keep me reading. The book appears to be a standalone, but I’d read more of Radford’s work.

The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood: Another Phryne Fisher mystery. It’s fun rereading them and half-remembering the episodes of the television show the book inspired.

Gamma Draconis by Benoist Simmat and Eldo Yoshimizu: I haven’t tried to read manga in a long time. The reading right to left still kind of throws me. However, it mostly became natural by the middle of the book with a little effort. I really enjoyed the art, and Yoshimizu’s panel construction. I’d check out more of his work.

Dungeons & Dragons Living Greyhawk Gazetteer: A reread. It’d been a while since we’d managed a session in the ongoing Greyhawk campaign I play in, and things are starting to get heavy in the politics and history lore, so I dove back into this as a refresher. One of the best campaign sourcebooks for 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons, but as it’s more lore than stats, a good resource for anyone playing in the world of Greyhawk no matter the edition.

City of Splendors: Waterdeep by Eric L. Boyd: A reread, and throwback to the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I enjoyed this more now than I did when I was playing in the 3/3.5 era. This edition’s layout and design doesn’t really work for me anymore. It just feels cluttered and busy, and hard to read, but that could just be my aging eyes.

Lore Olympus Volume One by Rachel Smythe: A webcomic that was totally off my radar. I found this by accident when scrolling through the graphic novel section at the library and liked the colour palette on the cover, so I thought I’d check it out. It took me a while to warm up to the art, but in the end I loved it, and I have the next volume on order.

Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition by Onyx Path Publishing: A game I love to play, but would never want to run. This book is HUGE, easily the physically largest single book in my gaming collection. It only took me about three months to finish getting through it all.

Star Wars Vol. 3: War of the Bounty Hunters by Charles Soule, Ramon Rosanas, Rachelle Rosenberg: The Rebellion’s hunt for Han Solo continues.

Tons of new game books arrived recently!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 RPG, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, The Dragon Prince Tales of Xadia.

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook by Matt Forbeck: Just a playtest, so not the entire game, but I was intrigued enough to check it out because I really like Matt Forbeck’s other superhero RPG, Brave New World. This is definitely not a game I’d enjoy running, but that said, I’m still intrigued to try it as a player (fortunately one of my gaming pals has volunteered to bring it to the table). There’s only enough powers listed to highlight the sample Marvel heroes included in the playtest (big names, like Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, among others) so it’s hard to build any character in your imagination, and I’ve always preferred making my own supers to playing Marvel or DC characters. We’ll see how it goes.

Sly Flourish’s The Lazy DM’s Workbook by Michael E. Shea: Lots of short cuts, tables, and quick lairs for a DM to use when a session goes in an unexpected direction. An excellent resource.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game 3rd Edition: One of many reinterpretations of old versions of Dungeons & Dragons. This one skews closest to the Basic D&D version that I used to play a ton, and I really like it! The changes they’ve made (ditching alignment, allowing elves, dwarves, and halflings to have classes separate from their ancestry, and ascending instead of descending armour class) are all great tweaks. I’d absolutely consider running this for a classic feel D&D campaign.

Thunder Road by Sierra Dean: The first novel in Dean’s Rain Chaser series. The book is dedicated to me (well, me and John Bernthal, but that seems like pretty decent company) and we’re friends (and title twins!). Fast paced urban fantasy at it’s highest octane. Looking forward to checking out more of Dean’s worldbuilding in this series.

The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley: This was a lot of fun, a very approachable read about fungi, not that it’ll make me start putting the horrible things on my pizza anytime soon. It seems like the author also writes some speculative fiction, which I’ll have to check out!

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Check out my roundup of my 2021 reading here.

Check out my roundup of my 2020 reading here.

New Short Story

The contracts are signed, and the edits are in, so it’s official: a new Thunder Road story will be appearing in Pirating Pups: Salty Sea-Dogs and Barking Buccaneers!

Cover artist Sarah Dahlinger typography is by Indigo Chick Designs.

My contribution is “The Empress of Marshmallow” narrated by the titular character, an obstinate chow, and featuring a young Tilda.

The story was, in part, inspired by this handsome fellow, the latest chow chow sibling:

And of course by this ungovernable boss:

I’m not sure when exactly release day is, but keep an eye out, I’ll let you know as soon as I can share a preorder link. (The formal Table of Contents announcement is on May 10th.) I’ll also try and get an excerpt up soon to give you all a teaser.

Hopefully folks will find this a nice companion piece to “All Cats Go to Valhalla.”

The 2022 To-Read List: March

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) that jump the queue and end up in the piles from time to time as well.

Cremains of the Dead by Misty Simon, Tea & Treachery by Vicki Delany, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, In the Dark We Forget by Sandra SG Wong, Arcana edited by Rhonda Parrish

Tea & Treachery by Vicki Delany: A cozy mystery. I really didn’t like one of the main characters, the grandmother whose name amateur sleuth Lily was supposed to be clearing, which tainted the read for me a bit. Otherwise, not a bad mystery.

Sly Flourish’s Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master by Michael E. Shea: I’ve been watching a lot of Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM preparation videos on YouTube, so I thought I’d give the book a try. Not a lot of new information in here if you’ve been reading slyflourish.com or watching those campaign prep videos, but it is well organized with good examples. This book is more on the theory of running a game as a “lazy dungeon master” meaning minimal preparation before hand so doesn’t have random tables or the tools that might aid you in that (pretty sure you can find those in one of Shea’s other books though).

Star Wars Bounty Hunters Vol. 2: Target Valance by Ethan Sacks, Paolo Villanelli, Arif Prianto: I’m generally enjoying Marvel’s take on the Star Wars comics. The “scum and villainy” side of the galaxy far, far away has long been my favourite.

Aquaman Vol. 1: Unspoken Water by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robson, Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Sunny Gho: Great intro to an interesting take on the character. I haven’t read Aquaman regularly since Tad Williams did his run, though I did tuck into the early days of Geoff Johns’ New 52 take on the character. Interesting mythology, not sure what happened before DeConnick took over the character to leave Aquaman as an amnesiac, but I’m intrigued to see where she takes the series.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach: An fantastic read. Maybe my favourite of her books after Stiff, though I’ve by no means read everything. Informative and entertaining. Space is way grosser than I expected.

From Beer to Eternity by Sherry Harris: First book in the Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon cozy mystery series. I grabbed this one on a whim from the library when I was there to pick up some graphic novels. Glad I did! I’ll definitely read more of this one.

Star Wars Vol. 2: Operation Starlight by Charles Soule, Ramon Rosanas, Jan Bazaldua, Rachelle Rosenberg: The post-Empire Strikes Back storyline continues. Soule does a great job of evoking Star Wars feels, which is most of what I want out of the comics.

Some of the recently acquired roleplaying games, which have grown into their own stack on the nightstand. Noir World by John Adamus, Jackals by John-Matthew DeFoggi, Hellboy the Roleplaying Game, Dungeons & Dragons Call of the Netherdeep, Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition.

By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates: Eva Gates also writes as Vicki Delaney. This is the first book in Lighthouse Library cozy mystery series. I enjoyed this one more than Tea and Treachery. I think I might keep reading this series.

Dungeons & Dragons Call of the Netherdeep by Wizards of the Coast: Looks to be an excellent new campaign set in the Critical Role world of Exandria. The art is gorgeous, there’s some cool new monsters and items, and I really liked the concept of the rival adventuring party pursuing the same goal as the players. As with most D&D adventure modules, I doubt I’ll ever run it as is, but there’s definitely elements I’d poach for a home game.

Hellboy the Roleplaying Game: I backed this one on Kickstarter. The game uses a D&D Fifth Edition chassis, with some intriguing alterations, and, of course, since it’s full of Mike Mignola Hellboy art, the book is gorgeous.

Bitch Planet Book Two: President Bitch by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma, Kelly Fitzpatrick: A fantastic follow up to an intriguing opening to the series.

Aquaman Volume 2: Amnesty: By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Viktor Bogdanovic, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Jonathan Glapion, Ryan Winn, Sunny Gho: Still not much of an Aquaman reader, but I continue enjoying the mythology that DeConnick is building.

Recent library pile that got a little bit out of hand.

Noir World by John Adamus: Another Kickstarter RPG reward. I’ve been waiting for this one for about five years. The game definitely took the long road to get to me, but I’m glad to see the creator was able to deliver. Noir World is a Powered by the Apocalypse game. I backed it to see how it would handle the promised no Game Master part of the system. I’m not entirely sure it’s going to be to the tastes of anyone I regularly game with, but it does have a lot of background information on the noir film era though.

Arcana edited by Rhonda Parrish: An anthology themed around the major arcana of the tarot. Full disclosure, I have a story in this one, and Rhonda has published a number of my stories in the past. I’m not a Tarot buff, but I’m intrigued to see what the other authors made of their chosen cards (I picked The Hanged Man). Also excellent illustrations accompany each tale (I liked the art for mine so much, I purchased it from the artist). Confession time: I didn’t reread my own story on this pass through the anthology. I know it well enough by now to have a sense of how it sits with the rest of the works.

Immortal Hulk Vol. 10: Of Hell and of Death by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts: The conclusion to an epic run. So glad I stuck it through to the end.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Check out my roundup of my 2021 reading here.

Check out my roundup of my 2020 reading here.

The February 2022 Reading List

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 up 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 the piles has been getting a little trickier, as I’m having a bit of trouble filling all of my criteria from stack to stack from my own shelves. I still plan on trying to read through the books on my own shelves 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) that jump the queue and end up in the piles from time to time as well.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman: Great read. Now I totally want to run a post-apocalyptic RPG.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Eberron Campaign Guide by James Wyatt and Keith Baker: I’m not sure I ever read this one cover to cover when it first released and I was playing D&D 4e. Lots of great info for an Eberron game regardless of which edition of the game you’re using.

Cremains of the Dead by Misty Simon, Tea & Treachery by Vicki Delany, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, In the Dark We Forget by Sandra SG Wong, Arcana edited by Rhonda Parrish

In the Dark We Forget by Sandra SG Wong: A phenomenal thriller. Absolute page turner, and in my opinion, Sandra’s best book yet. I was lucky enough to receive and advance reading copy, as the book releases June 21st, 2022, and I’ll definitely be purchasing gift copies for friends who are into thrillers.

Cremains of the Day by Misty Simon: A cozy mystery, the first Tallie Graver novel. A fun read. While it has an interesting protagonist, the secondary characters and setting didn’t grab me enough to immediately seek out the next volume, but I would read more.

Shang-Chi Vol. 1: Brothers & Sisters by Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, Philip Tan, Sebastian Cheng: I liked the art, and Yang crafted a fun story. I’ll keep reading the series. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Shang-Chi.

Morbius the Living Vampire Vol.1: Old Wounds by Vita Ayala, Marcelo Ferreira, Robert Poggi, Paulo Siqueira, Francesco Mobili, Scott Hanna, JP Mayer, Dono Sánchez-Almara: Not the blame of this series, but it’s something I’ve noticed lately as I’m reading more Marvel and DC books again; I’m getting tired of how many artists it takes for Marvel to churn out a monthly title. There was nothing wrong with any of the art, but none of it felt special either. I’ve always liked Morbius as a character, and I think Ayala did a good job with him. Especially enjoyed the guest appearance by Spider-Man.

Star Wars: Target Vader by Robbie Thompson, Marc Laming, Cris Bolson, Stefano Landini, Marco Failla, Roberto Di Salvo, Georges Duarte: I love having Valance back as a character. His previous appearances were some of my favourite old Marvel Star Wars comics.

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo: Fantastic novella. A fairytale feeling story with talking tiger sisters stalking a cleric. Highly recommended.

The Immortal Hulk Vol. 9: The Weakest One There Is by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belarindo Brabo, Paul Mounts, Alex Lins, Chris O’Halloran, Adam Gorham, Rachael Stott: Still cool. Really enjoying this series. Again, I wish Joe Bennett was the sole artist on the book, but I really enjoy the tale Ewing is crafting for the Hulk.

Jackals by John-Matthew DeFossi: A bronze age inspired roleplaying game. Jackals seems based on the Chaosium Basic Roleplaying engine, which I’ve always enjoyed, but simplifies combat (which was one of the things that always kept me from running games that used that engine). I appreciate how the game gives a solid reason for the characters to be together, and to be adventurers, and gives them something to do in the off-season. I’m not sure the setting speaks to me enough to run the game, but I’d definitely give it a crack if someone else was running the game.

Bitch Planet Book One: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV, Chris Peters, Clayton Cowles: I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of DeConnick’s comic writing that I’ve read so far, and this was no exception. Looking forward to reading more in the series.

Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo: I enjoyed Vo’s When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain so much, I immediately checked out this one from the library. Loved it too. Can’t wait to read more by this author.

Here’s what I read in January.

Check out my roundup of my 2021 reading here.

Check out my roundup of my 2020 reading here.

New Year, New Goals 2022 Edition

My writing goals for 2021 were pretty modest. And yet…

We’re mumble mumble months/years into a pandemic, and while there’s hope of seeing the other side, there’s been a lot of other things going on in life, the universe, and everything, so I’m trying to be kind with my progress.

Here were the goals:

  • Finish short stories I’ve started but not completed: I’m only aiming for three new stories out the door this year, but again, I’d like to write at least one of those stories for submission to the online pro markets rather than for open call themed anthologies, as is my usual way.
  • Draft and submit a novella.
  • Read more in general.
  • Read more short stories in particular.

Honestly, better than I expected.

Reading was the star of the first half of the year. I absolutely crushed the book reading in 2021. I doubt I’ll be realistically able to top the number of books read. I read more short stories than any year in recent memory too. Reading definitely helped refill the creative well.

Here’s what I read in 2021.

I’ve changed up a few process things that I used for motivators and project management. Using a Trello board to track my projects has started paying off. I finished up four old stories and submitted them to their initial markets. Some of those stories had been languishing for ages, waiting for the right push, so it felt great to get them out the door. I’ve also made good progress on a bunch of other stories. There’s still too many projects sitting half-finished on the old Trello board, but many of those realistically only need a couple weeks of push to get from half finished into a draft I can start properly revising, and then submit.

I outlined the novella, and even started drafting it before other circumstances forced me to set it aside. This was the most planning I’ve put into a shorter project, but it felt necessary to keep the novella from turning into a novel. I hope to get back to it sometime soon, it’s not abandoned, merely delayed.

So much for works in progress. What’s going on with things you can actually read? Three new stories published, one award won, and a reprint publication. Pretty stoked about all of those things.

The first published story of the year is in Rhonda Parrish’s tarot themed anthology, Arcana. (Buy it now on AmazonKobo, or Apple. Or ask your local library or independent bookseller to order a copy.) I love “‘Til Death is Done” I think it’s one of the best stories I’ve written yet.

My story “Midnight Man versus Carrie Cthulhu” is in Tyche Books’ Water: Selkies, Sirens, & Sea Monsters anthology, also edited by Rhonda Parrish.

The final new publication of the year is “Lurkers in the Leaves” available in Alternate Plains, from Enfield & Wizenty, courtesy of editors Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash.

I also had a reprint sale this year! “When the Gods Send You Rats,” which was originally published in Shared World, had a second appearance in Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 3!

The big, fantastic news in short fiction is that my story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” won the Prix Aurora Award for best short story!

All said, not a bad year for short fiction, considering it was a slow start to the writing year. Here’s hoping 2022 will be a productive and rewarding writing year. With that in mind, here’s 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.

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

Write on!