It’s that time of year again! If you are one of those nominating, or thinking about nominating, works for science fiction/fantasy-related awards (the Nebula, the Hugo, the Aurora, in particular), in 2021 I published the following stories:
“‘Til Death is Done,” Arcana, Poise and Pen Press, Rhonda Parrish, editor, May 2021. Read an excerpt here.
“Lurkers in the Leaves,” Alternate Plains, Enfield & Wizenty, Darren Ridgley & Adam Petrash, editors, October 2021. Read an excerpt here.
If you’re voting on any the various speculative fiction awards this year and want to read more of any of these stories please drop me a line, and I’ll make sure you can read any of my work that interests you. 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 2021.
I really wasn’t expecting to win, it was a strong ballot this year filled with stories I really admired.
Huge thanks to Rhonda Parrish for liking my story enough to include it in Swashbuckling Cats (both also nominated for an Aurora) and to Margaret Curelas of Tyche Books for publishing such a fun anthology. Of course, thanks to everyone who read the story and enjoyed it enough to nominate it, and to everyone who participated in voting for this year’s awards.
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 nowon 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.
My story “‘Til Death is Done” appears in Rhonda Parrish’s Arcana anthology! All the stories are inspired by a single tarot card, and the anthology releases May 11th. I hope you’ll check it out!
Here’s the Table of Contents:
Finders and Keepers, Its and Not-Its by Jaime Formato Palimpsest by Kevin Cockle Larkspur and Henbane by Sara Cleto & Brittany Warman Lupa by Susan MacGregor The Tale of King Edgar by L.S. Johnson Better Angels by Angela Slatter Thorns by Gabrielle Harbowy Anime Gamelle by Sara Dobie Bauer The Marriage of Ocean and Dust by Alexandra Seidel The Hermit by Hal Friesen The Mysterious East (Fredericton, NB) by Greg Bechtel One More Song by Eliza Chan ‘Til Death is Done by Chadwick Ginther Vestige by Annie Neugebauer Gift of the Kites by Jim C. Hines Surveying the Land by BD Wilson Rooks by Dan Koboldt Cold Spells by Diana Hurlburt The Moon by C.S. MacCath The Words of the Sun by Sarena Ulibarri My Brother’s Keeper by Beth Cato Age of Aquarius by Cat McDonald
Tarot cards have twenty-two major arcana, filled with symbolism and imbued with meaning. Explore the greater secrets and ideas behind those cards with the stories and poems of Arcana.
Discovery awaits in tales such as: a grasping king struggling with his legacy; a soldier receiving messages from the sun; an alchemist setting a golem out on a message of revenge and a woman finding what she didn’t know she was looking for.
Each story is like drawing a card from the deck–you never know what it might reveal.
Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, and I’ve carried it through for 2021, 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.
Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The 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.
Here’s what was on the to-read stack in January!
Savage Legion by Matt Wallace: I’ve been looking forward to this one since I first saw it in a catalogue. I was worried when I noticed points of view in present tense, typically I bounce off of books written in present rather than past tense. It worked for me with Savage Legion though. I loved every POV character, but especially Evie and Taru. Savage Legion felt so fresh and timely, and I think it’s destined to become a classic. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Wallace’s work!
The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler: This is a book I never thought I’d read, as I’m typically not one for self-help style books. The Dalai Lama’s big takeaway of compassion being important for happiness was interesting. I often didn’t care for Cutler’s framing of the Dalai Lama’s stories. I feel like my dual nature as someone who’s worked in customer service for years and been ground down by being mistreated by strangers and as an author who seeks to empathize with, and understand, people and why they do what they do led to a bit of whiplash reading the book. I’m certinly not going to become a Buddhist, and probably won’t read more of the Dalai Lama’s books, but I’m glad I read this, if only because it was a type of book I’ve never read before. Maybe The Art of Happiness is not what I should’ve been reading during the pandemic, or maybe exactly what I should be reading. Time will tell.
After finishing the January stack, here’s the pile I assembled for February:
Mage: The Hero Discovered by Matt Wagner: A graphic novel reread, and I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the series for the first time since Wagner completed it recently. I love the rawness of Wagner’s early art here. It largely held up for me other than a couple cringey moments due to the age of the material, and those were fewer than usual. I’m still upset about the death of Edsel and Sean after all these years. The collected edition I read is packed with extras, including an “interlude” story that bridges the time between The Hero Discovered and The Hero Defined. I love the old wraparound Comico covers, and somehow the more modern reissue covers Wagner did for the series don’t work as well for me, but I’m glad they were all included. It’s weird reading this years after I became a writer and seeing how influential Wagner’s work has been on mine. I typically cite Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run when I’m talking about comic influences on my prose, but I think I’ll have to start including Wagner’s Mage in my direct influences.
Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite: I first read Brite ages ago (don’t ask how long) in my first year of university when I picked up Lost Souls, which hit pretty hard back then in my early years of listening to industrial music and starting to explore some of goth culture. I’ve only spent a little bit of time working in restaurants (delivering pizza for my least favourite pizza place in my old home town, and bussing tables at a supposedly fine dining place) but there’s something about Brite’s culinary fiction that hits so true. I also love watching food shows. Love cooking. Love eating out (or did, pre-pandemic). I absolutely devoured this one, pun intended. I’m sure I’ll be adding the other volumes to my to-read stack soon.
Mage: The Hero Defined by Matt Wagner: I think this is my favourite era of Wagner’s art. And my favourite volume of the series from a story perspective. I love how he expanded his concepts from The Hero Discovered. I think this has the basis for being an excellent RPG. I’d probably use City of Mist to run the game if I ever got around to it. I do wish we saw more women among the avatars of power characters, but the witch sisters are pretty cool. The wait for The Hero Denied seemed interminable, but the final volume finally arrived, and I can’t wait to reread it with the series fresh in my brain.
One in the Hand by Rhonda Parrish: Not initially on my to-read pile, but I was lucky enough to receive an advanced digital copy of this one. I’m mostly used to Rhonda reading my work, as she’s edited several of my short stories over the years. This was a Norse myth influenced book set in Edmonton, so of course I loved it. Rhonda played with one of my favourite, usually unsung relationships in the myths. I really hope this will be a series.
City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff: First book in the Ghost Writers series. I met Moncrieff and got to know her at a variety of conventions. This is my first run at one of her novel-length stories. I really enjoyed the relationship between Jackson and Kate, as well as Moncrieff’s take on how ghosts and mediums work. I see that book two features Kate as the protagonist, which I’m looking forward to.
The Break by Katherena Vermette: I know Katherena first as a poet, and I loved her debut, North End Love Songs. Her graphic novel collaboration with Scott Henderson, A Girl Called Echo, was also a fun read. I’ve hesitated reading this one, because I knew it would be heavy, but I never doubted it would be good. The Break was both heavier, and better than expected; an intergeneration family story of trauma and healing, every character was so well realized. I also appreciated that a family tree was included to be able to see the connections at a glance. The book has its trigger warnings displayed on the title page, if you’re concerned, but I highly recommend giving it a chance.
Rings of Anubis by E. Catherine Tobler: Steampunk is typically not my jam but I really enjoyed this late 1880s tale. A nice slow burn romance between Folley and Mallory, lots of mystery in what agents of Mistral do, and what is going on with the supernatural forces in the world. I’d definitely read more of these characters, and in this world.
Mage: The Hero Denied by Matt Wagner: My first reread of the final volume in the Mage trilogy. I originally read this in single issues as they released. Wagner collaborated with his son Brennan, who did the colours for this volume. Endings are hard. I know this well as someone who has had to find the right ending for a few books of his own (and had to end a trilogy). I think it was a fine ending for hero Kevin Matchstick, maybe one that didn’t particularly resonate with me, but worked for the character. Unfortunately, this was my least favourite iteration of Wagner’s art in the series, and I missed some of the larger worldbuilding that was introduced in The Hero Defined, but it made sense that Wagner tightened the focus back to Matchstick and his new family. I do hope Wagner returns to the world now that Kevin Matchstick has had his happy ending, even though I doubt that’ll happen.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
Today is the cover reveal and table of contents announcement for Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens! I’m super excited about this one! This marks my fifth sale to one of Rhonda Parrish’s anthologies!
There’s a lot of new-to-me names in this one, so I’m excited to check out all the stories.
Whimsical, Inquisitive, Quick-Witted
Air is essential for life. The need for air is so important that breathing is instinctual. Yet Air is unstable and capricious, blowing gently as a summer breeze in one moment and blasting with the fury of a tornado in the next. No wonder that tricksters, fairies, and spirits belong to Air just as much as winged creatures. Elusive and ethereal, Air’s denizens are difficult to find and harder to capture.
Brave the ever-changing world of Air with these twenty-one stories and poems, featuring: Rose Strickman; Davian Aw; Mark Bruce; Alexandra Seidel; Damascus Mincemeyer; Cherry Potts; Ellen Huang; Giselle Leeb; Bronwynn Erskine; Kevin Cockle; Elizabeth R. McClellan; Chadwick Ginther; Christa Hogan; Rowena McGowan; Laura VanArendonk Baugh; Alyson Faye; Mara Malins; Sara C. Walker; Elise Forier Edie; Oliver Smith; and Sarah Van Goethem.
Table of Contents:
The Snow Wife by Rose Strickman
Into Thick Air by Davian Aw
Faery Dust by Mark Bruce
Of White Cranes and Blue Stars by Alexandra Seidel
Dead Man’s Hustle by Damascus Mincemeyer
Final Flight by Cherry Potts
The Ravens, Before Returning by Ellen Huang
Their Disappearing Edges by Giselle Leeb
Swanmaid by Bronwynn Erskine
The Whippoorwill by Kevin Cockle
Nephele, On Friday by Elizabeth R. McClellan
Golden Goose by Chadwick Ginther
The House with a Pond with a Girl In It by Christa Hogan
Research Log ~~33 by Rowena McGowan
Eiyri by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Raven Girl by Alyson Faye
Time to Fold by Mara Malins
We All Fall Down by Sara C. Walker
The Sky Thief by Elise Forier Edie
Late Tuesday by Oliver Smith
Wind Song by Sarah Van Goethem
The cover artist, as with all of the covers in Rhonda’s Elemental series, is Ashley Walters, who knocked it out of the park again.
My story, “Golden Goose,” is a Thunder Road ‘verse story featuring Ted and Loki. It’s not the first Thunder Road story I’ve sold, or the first one to feature Loki, but it is the first story featuring the trilogy’s protagonist, Ted Callan, that wasn’t self-published (nothing wrong with self-publishing, and I’m proud of those stories, but I’ve just always found Ted a tough nut to crack in short story length). This one was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
In addition to being my fifth story sale to Rhonda Parrish, “Golden Goose” is my third entry her Elemental anthology series! “Midnight Man versus Frankie Flame” appeared in Fire: Demons, Dragons, & Djinns, and “The Enforcer” appeared in Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles. And damn right, I’ve already started thinking about my story for when Water’s open call drops!