2021 Mid-year Check In

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.

The only thing I’m really excelling at this year is the reading. I’m absolutely crushing the book reading (I’ve already read more this year than last year). As for the short stories…not so much. I might try to make that more of a focus of the hind end of 2021.

Reading more is definitely helping refill the creative well though, so hopefully that will bode well for the rest of 2021’s creative pursuits. Being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 has also helped free up some brain space from worrying about getting sick, so that’s good too.

I’ve changed up a few process things that I used as motivators in the past, partially as a response to the pandemic, but also because they were no longer working. 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 even before COVID. Last year I tried keeping only the five or so projects in various categories (novel, short story, novella) that seemed closest to being finished on the list, but new things kept creeping onto there and I was in the same predicament: things were getting started and not finished.

My new tactic is using a Trello board to track my projects after seeing game writer Jason Pitre talk about their project management process. I took their plan and organized everything I have on the go into Now, Next, Eventually, and Potentially boards. And more importantly, only working from the list of Now projects. Not going to lie, it was a little disheartening to see so many half finished/barely begun projects and yet, I was excited by how 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.

Since making this organizational change I’ve almost crossed a couple of stories off my Now board. I’ve finished one story, added 2000 words to another fragment which I think I’ve figured out the shape of finally, and started a brand new story (oops), getting the first 2000 words down. The new process is still a work in progress, but there’s no point in denying when inspiration offers me a story beginning if I don’t spend a lot of time with it instead of my priority projects. Eventually, those projects will find a home. Once one of the stories on my Now list is finished and submitted, I’ll slide something from the Next board over to Now and keep moving through things (at least that is the plan). I expect the novel projects to linger a little while longer before I start fully wrestling with them, but having them on the Now list keeps me thinking of them.

So much for works in progress. What’s going on with things you can actually read? I’ve had one story published this year and another one on the way. I just have to get some submissions out so I’ll have something published next year.

The first published story of the year is in Rhonda Parrish’s tarot themed anthology, Arcana. I’ve been waiting patiently for you to be able to read my story, and to be able to talk about the anthology (but not nearly as long as Rhonda has! Check out her blog post about it here!

Coincidentally to Rhonda’s blog post about Arcana’s origins, my story, while it ties into some of my more recent writing, also includes some of the earliest writing I ever did after resolving to become an author. There’s bits of writing that never found a home, a protagonist, or a plot that somehow felt right when cobbled together for this story. There’s also bits of writing that were originally meant to be Thunder Road stories, there’s bits originally meant for the Graveyard Mind universe, and while they never quite fit in with those series, these disparate pieces somehow gelled together to make the whole work.

Rhonda commissioned art for each of the stories, and you can see it, and read story excerpts, here, here and here. An excerpt from my story and the sweet bit of creepy art inspired by it is here. I loved the art so much, that I purchased the original from the artist Margaret Simon.

My story is called ‘Til Death is Done and it’s inspired by The Hanged Man card. I’ve only ever had one tarot reading, so I hope I’ve done its themes justice. I want to write a book about this character someday. My Hanged Man. My Crow Knight. Hope you like him enough to give me the chance. (Buy it now on Amazon, Kobo, or Apple. Or ask your local library or independent bookseller to order a copy.)

My story “Midnight Man versus Carrie Cthulhu” is hitting shelves soon in Tyche Books’ Water: Selkies, Sirens, & Sea Monsters anthology, also edited by Rhonda Parrish. With this story I nailed my self-imposed goal of selling a story to each of Rhonda’s elemental anthologies! I’m still thrilled about that, and to have sold three Midnight Man stories! Maybe he’ll get his own book someday too.

That’s all for now. Hopefully the rest of the writing year will keep looking up.

Write on!

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?