New Year, New Goals, 2021 Edition

What a dumpster fire 2020 was, eh, friends? I’ll say mine was better than some people’s and worse than other’s and leave it at that.

Here’s what I’d hoped to accomplish last year:

  • 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.

How unrealistic was that in hindsight? I even had a 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.

Nothing much has changed since my July 2020 update in regards to Graveyard Mind plans, or An Excuse for Whiskey. I’m still hopeful that I’ll find Graveyard Mind a home with a new publisher, but there’s nothing to report yet. Until I find Graveyard Mind a new home, or choose to self publish a new edition, its in-progress sequel will remain lying fallow. My Excuse for Whiskey co-writer Sandra has her new fitness website and YouTube channel, and is 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 couple years as I became more serious about losing some weight and getting into better shape.) I actually blew past my realistic goal and then past my unrealistic goal. I’m back to my twenty-one year old weight which I wouldn’t have believed possible even a short while ago.

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. Currently, that book is stalled 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. I didn’t get the draft done by the end of the summer as hoped, due to a lot of factors. I hope I’ll get back to it in 2021 when things settle down a bit more.

I did finish one more short story I’d previously started before the year ended–and it sold! Still, I was far short of what I’d hoped to accomplish. I only finished and submitted one novelette and one short story, but that novelette was not for an anthology, which was at least another short story subgoal hit. I got close to a finished draft on a third story, but you know the thing about close (horseshoes, hand grenades, that old chestnut). I’m still waiting on the revision notes from the editor and the contract to be signed, so I won’t say anymore about that last short story sale now. I also sold a reprint of my short story “Red” to the anthology Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy, my story “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” was longlisted for the Sunburst Award, “All Cats Go to Valhalla” released in Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas, and “Golden Goose” released in Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens.

About the only goal I consistently hit in 2020 was to read more, which is a good way of refilling the creative well, so hopefully that will bode well for 2021’s creative pursuits. I’ve been tracking my reading every month here on the blog, but I’ll write a reading roundup blog at a later date.

I’ve changed up a few process things that I used as motivators in the past. I used to keep all of my unfinished projects on a list near my desk, partly as motivation to finish, and partly to shame me into finishing, but that tactic stopped being useful. Last year I tried keeping only the five or so projects in various categories (novel, short story, novella) on the list, but new things kept creeping onto the list. Still, the two stories I did finish in 2020 had been on the to-do list for a long time, and I’m thrilled to have finally crossed them off. I’m limiting the category lists to three items this year. Obviously, it’s unlikely I’ll finish my three novels novels this year, but all three of those novels in progress are different goals, such as finish a first draft, edit a first draft, and revise and submit a final draft.

Looking forward at 2021 it’s hard to get excited for a new year when you know that it’s going to start off the same way the last one ended. Much of my early 2021 is likely to be filled with some of the uncertainty of 2020, so it’s unlikely I’ll get back to novel writing for many reasons. I’ll reassess my goals in July at my half year check in. That said, here’s what I hope to accomplish for 2021:

  • 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 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.

Happy New Year, and write on!

Eligible Works Published in 2020

It’s that time of year again! The Nebula Awards are accepting nominations and shortly the Aurora Awards and the Hugo Award will do the same. If you are one of those nominating or thinking about nominating works for science fiction/fantasy-related awards, in 2020 I published the following:

“All Cats Go to Valhalla” (short story, 5200 words) published in Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas, edited by Rhonda Parrish. Tyche Books. May 2020. You can read an excerpt here.

“Golden Goose” (short story, 6200 words) published Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens, edited by Rhonda Parrish. Tyche Books. August 2020. 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 “All Cats Go to Valhalla” or “Golden Goose” please drop me a line. If you’re looking for more additions to your reading list Cat Rambo and A.C. Wise keep pretty comprehensive lists of who published what in 2020.

Most of my reading for 2020 was older books, as I’ve been trying to clear my backlog and read things I’ve previously purchased. I did particularly enjoy The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, and Fangs by Sarah Andersen, however.

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