The 2020 Reading List: February

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.


Die on Your Feet by S.G. Wong: The first book in the Lola Starke mysteries. I blurbed the third book in the series, and it was really neat coming back to the ground level of the series with this excellent opening volume. I knew the gist of how the metaphysics of Wong’s Crescent City worked, but that definitely deepened reading Die on Your Feet. This is the kind of setting I’d love to run a pulp-noir RPG in. I’m looking forward to reading more Lola Starke.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: A standalone graphic novella in the Criminal ‘verse. I’ll read pretty much anything Brubaker and Phillips put out. They are consistently among my top comic teams regardless of the type of stories they’re trying to tell, but I sure have a soft spot for their Criminal books.

Dreams of Shreds & Tatters by Amanda Downum: I think I held off reading this one for as long as I did because I wanted to read The King in Yellow first, as the King plays a role in this book. I’m aware of The King in Yellow largely through RPGs and stories riffing on the work, but never got around to the original Robert W. Chambers piece. I still haven’t done that, and maybe there’d have been more in this book that jumped out at me if I had, but I enjoyed the story well-enough anyway even if I wasn’t catching all the references. I really liked Downum’s prose, which felt a little like reading a dream, entirely appropriate for this book.

The New Fantasmagoriana II edited by Keith Cadieux: Stories by Adam Petrash, Jess Landry, J.H. Moncrieff, David Demchuk. All four writers stayed in Winnipeg’s supposedly haunted Dalnavert Museum and wrote the first drafts of their stories overnight. I really enjoyed each story, and I think Demchuk’s was the stand out for me. Cadieux says in the foreword that the writers had the same experience, and leads me to believe the only downside to reading all of the stories in a row is some of that sameness came into the book. There are Victorian mansions in each, and children play a role in each story. Definitely not a deal breaker though. And it’s my own fault really, all in a row is not how I typically read short story collections.

Spectaculars by Scratchpad Publishing: I backed this roleplaying game on Kickstarter and it arrived recently. It is awesome. I have a soft spot for superhero RPGs, and I cannot wait to get this to the table, although I’m not sure if I want to play it or run it more. The box set is huge, and full of game trays, tokens, and power cards in addition to the rule book and setting book. I haven’t seen a game that emulates comic books as well as this one does, I hope the first read impression holds when I actually start playing it.

Night’s Dominion Volume 3 by Ted Naifeh: The concluding volume of a high fantasy graphic novel series that I’m definitely sad to see go, but what a great ending. Now that the series is done I’m looking forward to reading it in its entirety in a short span and seeing how that changes things.

Here’s what I read in January.

The 2020 Reading List: January

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


Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski: The first novel in the Witcher series. Full confession, I started this one over Christmas but wasn’t done until the new year. The main reason I checked this out was because I loved the show. I’d read The Last Wish years ago, and never felt compelled to read more in the series. Sadly, I think that instinct was the correct one. While reading Blood of Elves definitely helped me keep track of some of the characters on the Netflix series, Sapkowski’s writing just isn’t for me. I’ll happily keep watching the show though.

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: The twelfth October Daye novel. Now I’m mostly caught up on the novels, just waiting for the latest hardcover to hit paperback. May check it out at the library if I get a hankering, but with a new book dropping in February from McGuire’s InCryptid series, I might be good for a while. This wasn’t my favourite book in the series, which remains Book 3, An Artificial Night (the book that really made me all in for this series), but it was fun. McGuire’s got a knack for keeping the reader intrigued even this deep into a series. Every time I finish an October Daye novel I want to play a game of Changeling: The Dreaming.

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw: The first Persons Non Grata novella. This is the first bit of Khaw’s work that I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be seeking out more. I’m thrilled to see there’s another book in this series. Hammers on Bone had an amazing voice and a great noir feel. Oddly enough it was recommended to me by Michael at Whodunnit when I was on the hunt for Once Broken Faith (another October Daye book) and no one had it in stock at the time. Thanks, Michael!

All Systems Red by Martha Wells: Book One in the Murderbot Diaries. I’ve been aware of Martha Wells’ work for a while, but never cracked a book. All Systems Red was recommended and loaned to me by my pal Karen Dudley, but I’ve seen so many great things about the series from folks on my Twitter feed. I’d mostly given up on reading science fiction until I’d finished this. Wells writes fantasy too, so I  should check out some of that eventually too.

Fury From the Tomb by S.A. Sidor: Book One in the Institute for Singular Antiquities series. I picked this one up on a whim because it looked like it would hit me in the Indiana Jones/Brendan Fraser Mummy feels. It was a little bit that, and a little bit not. Fury From the Tomb was a fun, fast-paced read. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure that the narrator was enough to my taste to rush into book two.

Heathen: Volume 1 by Natasha Alterici: A fun viking fantasy series. I stumbled onto the artist’s work on Twitter a while ago, and finally got around to reading it. Heathen has almost everything I like in Norse myth: valkyries, Odin being a dick, shapeshifters, Sigurd and Brynhild! Alterici’s art sold me on the series but her writing is clever, honest and heartfelt. Can’t wait to read Volume 2!

What have you been reading, folks?

Michael Van Rooy

I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Chadwick Ginther

A year ago today, Winnipeg lost one of its rising literary stars, and I lost a great friend. Michael passed away while on tour promoting his third novel, A Criminal to Remember. As tributes were organized, I had the honour of being asked to speak about what Michael meant to me, both as a bookseller who loved to read his books and as an emerging writer whom he’d mentored.

Here’s what I had to say:

I first met Michael shortly after he sold An Ordinary Decent Criminal. At the time he was the restaurant manager here in Prairie Ink. Michael wasn’t a mentor yet, but he was still an inspiration. Here was someone who had done it. He’d made that first big sale.

Michael always had questions then. About how the store did its displays. What worked. What didn’t. What made me pick one book over another when…

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Music Monday: Kill the Lights by The Glorious Sons

Another band I’ve stumbled across after listening to the radio a little bit more. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Kingston that results in music I like, but here we are. The Glorious Sons join The Tragically Hip and The Headstones on my Kingston, Ontario playlist.

Her daddy had some money that he could lend us
So she took me to Paris
To try and make me a renaissance man
We were young bloods, searching for something
Spent youth on the dream of love
We were too close to see it coming
Now I’m running from the things that we were dreaming of

Eligible Works 2020 Edition

It’s that time of year again! January 1st marked the start of the Aurora Awards nominations and the Hugo Award nominations. If you are one of those nominating or thinking about nominating works for science fiction/fantasy-related awards, in 2019 I published the following:

“The Enforcer” (short story, 5000 words) published in Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles, edited by Rhonda Parrish. Tyche Books. August 2019. You can read an excerpt here.

“Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” (short story, 4700 words) published in On Spec # 112, Vol 30 No 2, November 2019. You can read an excerpt here.

Thanks for reading, folks! If you’re voting on any the various speculative fiction awards this year and want to read more of “The Enforcer” or “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” please drop me a line. If you’re looking for additions to your reading list Cat Rambo and A.C. Wise keep pretty comprehensive lists of who published what in 2019.

Music Monday: She’s Kerosene by The Interrupters

Lately I’ve been listening to the radio when I’m in the car a lot more frequently than I ever used to (at least prior to having a tape deck or CD player). It’s been fun (also annoying, but mostly fun) and I’ve stumbled on some bands that are, at least, new to me. Found this song recently and have been listening to it almost non-stop. Hits me right in the old Rancid vibes.

I’m a match, she’s kerosene
You know she’s gonna burn down everything
She’s an arsonist in her pass time
And I’ve been burned for the last time
Time, time, time, woah
I’ve been burned for the last time
Time, time, time, woah
I’ve been burned for the last time

New Year, New Goals 2020 Edition

Wow, 2019 was like a decade of its own, wasn’t it?

Let’s look back at what I intended to get done:

    • Finish drafting and revising Graveyard Mind 2
    • Revise An Excuse for Whiskey
    • Systematic finishing of the short stories I’ve started writing but not finished. I would like to get at least six new stories out the door this year
    • Separating my IP from a work-for-hire project that didn’t pan out.
    • Be ready to write that new book by November for NaNoWriMo
    • Read more

Not a lot crossed off the old list last year, I’m afraid.

I took Graveyard Mind 2 from roughly 50K to 75K. I know all the story now, and have a few scenes left to write and a number of chapters to flesh out to get a full draft up to length. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons I’ll get to later, I pulled the pin on working on this book. Had I stuck with it, I would’ve likely had a completed (finally) draft, but it would’ve still needed substantial revisions before I submitted it to be published.

Sandra and I talked about an Excuse for Whiskey at Can-Con in Ottawa, and at the end of the year we did make a strategic plan to move forward, after reacquainting ourselves with the material. I think there’s a lot of strong writing there, and we should be able to go forward on this book strong in 2020.

I submitted four new stories this year, not the six I’d aimed for. Three of those stories were accepted to the markets they were written for, and the fourth I just snuck in at the end of year (on the last day of submissions, with fifteen minutes to spare to catch my bus to my New Year’s Eve celebrations) so I won’t know if it sold for a while yet. Pretty happy that I pushed through on that last piece, despite not hitting my six story goal. I also realize my approach in finishing stories has not been remotely systematic any of the last few years. I just grabbed whatever stubs of writing and unfinished stories seemed to fit various open calls or invitations and honed them down and built them up until I had something to send off. I mean, I guess it’s a system…Of the four stories I submitted this year, three were stubs of old material that I fleshed out, and one was pretty much all new material. Two were set in the Graveyard Mind/Midnight Man ‘verse, and two were part of the Thunder Road ‘verse. I also subbed one older story that suited another open call and had two stories (“Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” in On Spec and “The Enforcer” in Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles) published. Not a bad year for short fiction for me.

When I abandoned Graveyard Mind 2, it was already mid-November, so too late to start writing a new book for NaNoWrimo, and I knew how my Decembers usually go, so starting a new book from scratch didn’t seem like something that I was in the head space for, so I prioritized that last story instead. But I did also have that completed book written for a work-for-hire project that didn’t work out. I think one of the reasons this task sat as long as it did was I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to replace the magic system/gods and religion that were part of the old IP, and the story I told didn’t really suit being placed in any of my existing writing worlds. Over the course of 2019, I figured out what I wanted to do with it and spent the tail end of the year finishing a draft. I stripped out the old company’s IP and replaced it with my own worldbuilding. There’s still a lot of layering to happen, and definitely another draft or two in its future, but it did cross one relatively big thing off my to-do list. I also think I want to add another POV character in the next draft, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m excited to get it done.

I read more in 2019 than I did in 2018, but it still didn’t feel like enough. Maybe because most of what I read was actually rereads or familiar series. As I got ready to move, I found I didn’t have the energy to concentrate on new books, so I stuck with series I’d already started, or rereading old favourites. Oh, and gaming books–so many gaming books. I started and finished Sam Sykes’ Bring Down Heaven trilogy, read a few Seanan McGuire novels in the InCryptid and October Daye series, and reacquainted myself with R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf and Icewind Dale trilogies, David Eddings’ Elenium and Tamuli, and fell waaaaaaay behind on my comic reading (Criminal was a stand out for me though) and checked out a bunch of new roleplaying games (City of Mist, Dark Streets & Darker Secrets, Forbidden Lands, Invisible Sun, Legend of the Five Rings 5e, Monster of the Week, Pathfinder 2e, Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, Tiny Supers).

I wrote about 80000 new words in 2019, which is up from 2018, but still well below what I’d like. I think for next year, I’m going to stop tracking my daily word count in the same way as I’ve been doing for the last five years or so. It’s had diminishing returns the last few years, and I spent time fiddling with the spreadsheet that I could’ve spent writing. Maybe I’ll just take one year off from obsessively tracking word count, or maybe not. Maybe I’ll only note the word count that goes out on submission this year. We’ll see how the writing goes.


Why did I abandon work on Graveyard Mind 2?

A lot of shit was going on with ChiZine Publications that I should’ve noticed sooner, but there are some pretty good run downs available if you want to know more. Each new story of misdeeds by ChiZine that emerged was gutting, and I believe those who came forward, and appreciate their bravery in sharing. I’m also sorry I didn’t see what you were experiencing sooner. I’ll learn from this, and I’ll try to do better. While my time publishing with ChiZine was not as bad as others have described, I could not continue to have a professional or personal relationship with them. I asked for and received a reversion of rights to Graveyard Mind, so it will soon be out of print and unavailable. I do have some copies for sale at conventions for the time being. If you’d like to read it and can’t find it, please drop me a line and I’ll try to hook you up. I’m still deciding what I want to do with the book and series. Ideally, I’m hoping to find a new publisher for the series, but I’m also considering self-publishing a new edition of Graveyard Mind and possibly the rest of the series. What I choose to do will likely depend on the 2020 agent hunt. I’ll keep you posted.

While the year didn’t end the way I’d hoped, at the same time, I felt a renewed drive to create coming out of November. I had a great time at Can-Con hanging out with writer pals I see too rarely. So many people reached out to me during mid-November to check on how I was doing in the wake of the ChiZine news (thanks so much! Your support meant the world to me). I completed a new draft on an old book and finished one more short story before the bell tolled on 2019, so I’m feeling good about 2020’s creative prospects.

What’s up for 2020?

  • 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.

Write on, folks!

Swashbuckling Cats!

The cover and Table of Contents for Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas just dropped. Thrilled to have my story “All Cats go to Valhalla” in this anthology from Tyche Books and Rhonda Parrish. This ToC contains some folks I know, some I don’t, but it sure looks like fun. I hope you’ll check it out!


Table of Contents:

Krista D. Ball — “The Perfect Kibble”
Rebecca Brae — “The Motley Crew”
Beth Cato — “A Royal Saber’s Work Is Never Done”
Lizz Donnelly — “The Growing of the Green”
Megan Fennell — “The Pride”
Chadwick Ginther — “All Cats go to Valhalla”
Joseph Halden — “The Furgeldt Collector”
Blake Liddell — “The Cat and the Cook”
Frances Pauli — “Pirates Only Love Treasure”
JB Riley — “Buccaneer’s Revenge”
Rose Strickman — “Cat at the Helm”
Leslie Van Zwol — “Cat Out of Hell”
SG Wong — “The Comeback Kitty”