Half-Year Check In

So here’s what I planned to accomplish for 2020 back in January:

  • Decide what to do with Graveyard Mind and Graveyard Mind 2 and implement those plans.
  • Revise An Excuse for Whiskey.
  • Finish short stories I’ve started but not completed. As before, I would like to get at least six new stories out the door this year, but this year I’d also like to write one of those stories for submission to the online pro markets rather than for open call themed anthologies, as is my usual way.
  • Finish revising my WIP novel and get it out on submission.
  • Restart the agent hunt.
  • Read more.

Stretch goal!

  • If I get my WIP out on submission, and Sandra and I finish An Excuse for Whiskey by November, I’ll take a run at NaNoWriMo again.

Holy shit. That list seems ridiculously optimistic looking back with hindsight. I’m still hopeful that I’ll find Graveyard Mind a home with a new publisher, but there’s nothing to report yet. I have received my final royalty statement from CZP, with (hopefully) my final royalty payment arriving imminently. It’ll be nice for that chapter of the novel’s story to be finally closed. Unfortunately, until I find Graveyard Mind a new home, or choose to self publish a new edition, its sequel will remain lying fallow.

Sandra Wickham and I have agreed to put An Excuse for Whiskey on hold for the time being. She’s launching her new fitness website and doing the pandemic single-mom thing, so she’s got her hands full. (You should totally check out Sandra’s fitness programs, she really knows what she’s doing, and has offered me plenty of advice in the last year and a half as I became more serious about losing some weight and getting into better shape.) Lately, revisions haven’t been my bag, so…someday I hope we’ll get back to it. We’re both still really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far with our first attempt at co-writing. Sandra’s one hell of a writing and critique partner, so I’m looking forward to when we’re both able to get this project done and on submission.

Short stories have been going a bit better. I’ve finished one novelette of my six new story challenge and am closing in on another short story. Both stories are for general submission not a specific anthology, which I haven’t done in ages. The novelette is roughly 13000 words, and the short story is currently around 7000, so I’m tempted to count them as three (or four) of my six stories, as the novelette felt like four times the work to edit. I’ll wait and see on that. It’s not really in the spirit of the challenge, is it? In other short story news, my story “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” was longlisted for the Sunburst Award, my story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” released in Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas, and my story “Golden Goose” sold to Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens, due to be released in August! Golden Goose is my fifth sale to Rhonda Parrish, which is awesome, and also makes me three for three (so far) on her Elemental anthology series. If I sell a story to the eventual Water anthology it’ll be like getting a rare Enlightenment Victory in my old Legend of the Five Rings card playing days.

As I said in an interview with Derek Newman-Stille, I gave up on the revisions I’d been working on in favour of trying to draft a new book in this strange pandemic moment. This is the book that I’ve kept promising myself I would start “when I’d crossed a few more items off the old list” but I never got there. This was the book that was going to be my NaNoWriMo stretch goal for the year. I’ve been working on the worldbuilding and history of this secondary world for ages now, but wouldn’t allow myself to actually do any drafting or prose. Now seemed like the perfect time to dive in. Currently, I’m at 41000 words, which means probably about halfway to a finished discovery draft; 30000 words is when a draft usually starts to feel like a book to me, but this one isn’t quite to that feeling yet. I think I’ve figured out what I want the finale to be, but I’m uncertain of the best steps to get through the soggy middle to get there. Nevertheless, I’m hoping to have a draft done by the end of the summer. We’ll see.

I can’t really start the agent hunt until I have a finished book, so that item is on hold for now, but I am updating my wish list of agents to submit to a bit at a time, so that when I’m ready, I am ready. I’ve also been working on a grant proposal project for Manitoba Arts Council and possibly the Canada Arts Council. My sample materials are done, and I have an idea of what I’m going to say, I just have to finish the actual application parts. MAC’s applications changed in recent years, so I’m building a new template from scratch.

As for my reading goals, I must say I’m enjoying tracking this a little bit more. So far I’ve read twenty-seven books, a combination of novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, and roleplaying games (check out my reading list so far here). When I started writing these mini reviews, I first just grabbed whatever was handy and seemed shiny. Since then, I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!). For now, especially due to COVID-19, and having hoarded some of these books for so long, I’m still trying to pull most of these titles from my existing shelves, rather than going out an buying more. I’ve been trying to stick to a finish two books I’ve already purchased before buying any new books plan since I moved last summer anyway.

Regardless of how my other 2020 goals shake down, I’m going to pass on NaNoWriMo this year, and I think, every year going forward. Starting a new book and just writing at my own pace has been really enjoyable, and since my last few NaNo attempts have led to one book that took me forever to revise to my satisfaction, another that I still haven’t revised to my satisfaction, and a third that’s on hold until I find a home for Graveyard Mind, it’s just creatively not for me. Also, the last couple times I’ve participated it’s been more of a “holy shit, I haven’t written as many words as I’d hoped for this year, quick, lets get some points on the board before the year’s over” and those words haven’t proven to be terribly productive, let alone any fun.

A few things have changed since I spoke to Derek, but I’m still trying to write, and take care of myself, and stay in touch with my friends as I can. I was also recently a guest on the Seangeek Podcast, where we talked about writing, tabletop gaming, and comics. Sean was also kind enough to review Graveyard Mind previously on the podcast.

That’s it for the first half of my 2020. I hope you’re all staying as well as can be.

 

The 2020 Reading List: May

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

May:

Tiny Gunslingers by Gallant Knight Games: A minimalist western game. I’ve loved all the Tiny D6 games I’ve picked up so far, even if I haven’t played them as much as I’d like. I have a plan for this one though (Sigh. I have a plan for all of them). I especially like the shootout mechanic which uses playing cards and Blackjack rules to resolve, which feels like the iaijutsu duel mechanic from early editions of Legend of the Five Rings.

Beak, Feather, & Bone by Tyler Crumrine, Austin Breed, and Jonathan Yee: This is another Kickstarter game, a ‘zine-length competitive map labeling RPG and worldbuilding tool. I’ll probably be using it more for the later than the former, but it looks great, the rules read well, and it should be a fun way to spend an evening regardless of motive for playing. Also, loved the ravenfolk art by Austin Breed.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: I started this one back in March and was loving it up until about a quarter of the way through, and then the everything happened with the real world and wouldn’t let up. I set it down meaning to get back to it, and it took me a while to regain my focus–my issue, no fault with Jemisin’s writing, which was superb–but once I did pick it up again, it was a race to the finish. What a goddamned great book. I’ve never been to New York but The City We Became felt both true to the New York that I’ve seen dramatized and at the same time so much deeper. I hope I get to see the real place some day.

War of the Realms by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson: I loved most of Jason Aaron’s run on Marvel’s Thor comics, but this book wasn’t to my taste. Dauterman’s art is as gorgeous as it ever was. Maybe if I’d read more of the ancillary issues tie-in issues my opinion might’ve changed, but I’m never a fan of Marvel’s big crossover events, and a book needs to stand on its own.

Forbidden Lands Player’s Guide by Free League: This was a reread. I’d missed a bunch of game sessions in a friend’s ongoing campaign, and now that I’ve been back a bit more regularly, I decided to refresh myself on the rules. Found a bunch of stuff I’d forgotten. Still love this game. A great, but deadly, hex-crawler with swift and deadly combat.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.