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!

Short Story in Arcana!

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.

Reserve your copy now

Amazon

Kobo

Apple

More vendors will be added soon.

There will be a paperback version available on release day.

Add it on Goodreads

Cover art and design by Philippe McNally and featuring interior illustrations by Marge Simon.

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!

Cheating the Devil at Solitaire Makes the Sunburst Longlist!

Holy shit, my story “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” published in On Spec Magazine made the Sunburst Award longlist! There’s so many great writers on that list whose work I admire. I’m absolutely thrilled to be named among them, and am looking forward to reading the authors whose work I wasn’t familiar with.

From the Sunburst Award Website:

We are proud to announce the longlists for the 2020 SUNBURST AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN CANADIAN LITERATURE OF THE FANTASTIC

Toronto, Ontario (June 8, 2020): The Sunburst Award Committee is pleased to announce the 2020 longlist for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. This year’s lists are comprised of a mixture of established authors, talented newcomers and several past nominees.

Below are the works longlisted by the juries, with links to their publishers, books and stories (where possible).

ADULT FICTION:

YOUNG ADULT FICTION:

SHORT STORY:

The Sunburst official Short list will be announced in July. Sunburst winners will be announced in September.

Jurors for the 2020 Award are: Peter Darbyshire , Kristyn Dunnion, Omar El Akkad, Michelle Butler Hallett,  John Jantunen, Michael Johnstone, Ursula Pflug,  and Sarah Tolmie.

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is an annual award celebrating the best in Canadian fantastika published during the previous calendar year. Winners receive a medallion that incorporates the Sunburst logo. Winners of both the Adult and Young Adult Sunburst Award also receive a cash prize of $1,000, while winners of the Short Story Award receive a cash prize of $500.

The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian Speculative Fiction. Past winners of the Sunburst Award include Andromeda Romano-Lax, Rachel Hartman, Senaa Ahmad, David Demchuk, Cherie Dimaline, Cory Doctorow, Charles De Lint, Nalo Hopkinson and Thomas King.

For additional information about the Sunburst Award, the nominees, juries, as well as previous awards, eligibility, and the selection process, please visit the official website of the Sunburst Award.

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

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!

SwashbucklingCats-lg

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”

 

Giftmas 2018: December 3rd

Edmonton has been good to me. In addition to being full of friends, and one of my favourite cities to visit, the hero of my first novel is from there, and most of my third is set there. And so I was thrilled to donate a story to Rhonda Parrish’s fundraiser in support of the Edmonton Food Bank. This year we’re trying to raise $750, which could translate into 2250 meals.

If you missed S.G. Wong’s story on December 1st, or Alexandra Seidel’s story yesterday, you can read S.G. Wong’s story here, and Alexandra Seidel’s here. You’ll find information about the other Giftmas contributors at the end of this blog.

Please read, and enjoy, and if you can, please donate to our cause. There is also a Rafflecopter giveaway full of prizes. Check them out at Rhonda’s website!

My story, The Gift that Keeps on Giving, started its life as a holiday challenge to my writing group for our December meeting many moons ago. It has since appeared on this website as a gift to my readers, but it’s been a while since I’ve shared it, so here we go again, and happy reading!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Nicholas stepped nimbly over the coals still smoldering within the fireplace. He had years of practice, and nary an ash clung to his polished, gleaming black boot. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? He smiled at the old joke. Practice.

But in all those years, this was something new. It was new, and that bothered him. He pulled the long parchment list from within his heavy coat. Checking it once, he didn’t like what he saw.

He checked it twice.

But there was no disputing it. This house wasn’t on his list. Nicholas shouldn’t have stopped here. There was no longer a reason for him to have stopped here. That poor little girl. He shook his head. There had been nothing he could have done. Not all wishes can be granted. He sighed ruefully. And not all pains can be soothed with toys. It had broken his heart, what she had wished for, but it just wasn’t within his power to grant.

There were no decorations in this house. No tree. No garland. No mistletoe. Framed photographs lined the mantle of the fireplace, but no stockings dangled beneath the images of a once happy family.

Nicholas turned his back on the unhappy dwelling and started back towards the chimney. A creak on the stairs stopped him in his boots. It was a soft noise, followed by the shuffle of fabric over hardwood.

A child’s slippers.

He couldn’t be seen, unless he chose to be. That was the one rule that governed, and protected him. Him, and the magic of Christmas both.

“Santa,” a weak voice rasped from the stairs.

It was a rule he often broke.

“Yes, my child,” Nicholas answered as he turned; ready to flash the hundred watt smile that would bring a rosy cheeked, dimpled grin to the girl’s face. Perhaps the list was mistaken?

The smile died as he saw her, now practically on top of him. She’d crossed the intervening distance between them in a flash. Her breath, coppery and rank, wafted over him, and her grip upon his mittened hand was too firm to shake.

“You didn’t bring me what I asked for last year,” she said petulantly as she pressed her tongue to an oversized canine. A bead of black blood welled up slowly from the small wound. “But someone did.”

Nicholas screamed as she jerked his head down by his snowy white beard. Blood sprayed across the girl’s little face.

His blood.

She lapped at the arterial spray, like an animal. Her face was a vision of ecstasy. His eyes stopped focusing as she whispered in his ear.

“Now every child in the whole world will get my wish.”

*

Later, in every house that still believed in such things—and there were many—children left out plates of homemade cookies, and tumblers of milk, beading with condensation. Wherever they had succumbed to slumber a voice whispered through teeth that glinted like knives, and a stained rusty beard.

“I never drink…milk.”

Art by S.M. Beiko.

The next post can be found on Michael Tager’s site, here.

Check out the rest of the participants, and when to expect them below. If you enjoyed my story and want to support #Giftmas2018 please share this story, and those of my fellow authors.

Midnight Man Will Return!

Announcement time!

Midnight Man first appeared in Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe, and he’s one of my favourite characters to write.

So if you like pulp superheroes

and you like fire

you’re in luck!

I am thrilled to place another story with Rhonda Parrish and to work with Tyche Books for the first time. I had a blast working with Rhonda on Equus, and getting the chance to launch that anthology at When Words Collide in Calgary. Looking forward to doing another launch. I’ve been kicking myself for not submitting to Tyche’s Masked Mosaic anthology ever since I had a chance to read it, so this is a great feeling.

Also, as if it were a present for selling the story (pretty sure it was a happy coincidence, unless Kevin knew something I didn’t), this appeared:

Huge thanks to Kevin Madison for this cover to a Midnight Man story I guess I’d better write. I love it! Hopefully, you’ll be reading lots more Midnight Man stories in the future, as prose, and as comics!

Equus Cover Reveal!

Here’s the cover for Equus, edited by Rhonda Parrish and featuring a Thunder Road story by yours truly!

I’m stoked to be sharing this anthology with some excellent writers, and some writers I’ve yet to discover.

There’s always something magical about horses, isn’t there? Whether winged or at home in the water, mechanical or mythological, the equines that gallop through these pages span the fantasy spectrum. In one story a woman knits her way up to the stars and in another Loki’s descendant grapples with bizarre transformations while fighting for their life. A woman races on a unique horse to save herself from servitude, while a man rides a chariot through the stars to reclaim his self-worth. From steampunk-inspired stories and tales that brush up against horror to straight-up fantasy, one theme connects them all: freedom.

Featuring nineteen fantastic stories of equines both real and imagined by J.G. Formato, Diana Hurlburt, Tamsin Showbrook, M.L.D Curelas, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, VF LeSann, Dan Koboldt, J.J. Roth, Susan MacGregor, Pat Flewwelling, Angela Rega, Michael Leonberger, Sandra Wickham, Stephanie A. Cain, Cat McDonald, Andrew Bourelle, Chadwick Ginther, K.T. Ivanrest, and Jane Yolen.

My story made the back cover copy! You’ll never guess which one is mine.

Write on.

Equus Table of Contents!

The table of contents for Equus is finally live and it’s great to see everyone’s names. I’d sussed out a few other authors because I have a few friends on the list but it’s nice to see everyone all lined up. I’m very curious to read everyone else’s stories (and holy shit, I’m in a book with Jane Yolen)!

Stars, Wings, and Knitting Things by J.G. Formato

Eel and Bloom by Diana Hurlburt

A Complete Mare by Tamsin Showbrook

Neither Snow, nor Rain, nor Heat-Ray by M.L.D Curelas

Rue the Day by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Riders in the Sky by VF LeSann

Above the Silver Sky by Daniel Koboldt

A Mother Unicorn’s Advice to Her Daughter by J.J. Roth

Ladies Day by Susan MacGregor

The Boys from Witless Bay by Pat Flewwelling

The Horse Witch by Angela Rega

Eli the Hideous Horse Boy by Michael Leonberger

Different by Sandra Wickham

To Ride a Steel Horse by Stephanie Cain

The Last Ride of Hettie Richter by Cat McDonald

We Us You by Andrew Bourelle

Scatter the Foals to the Wind by Chadwick Ginther

Lightless by K.T. Ivanrest

A Glory of Unicorns by Jane Yolen

Of course, I’m over the moon to be sharing a ToC with my good pal, and writing partner, Sandra Wickham; a first for us. Another first: sharing a ToC with my self-declared nemesis, Cat McDonald. Cat’s wanted to have a readoff to determine which of us will rule the universe for years now, so it looks like she might be getting her wish when Equus launches in July.

Get your Goodreads shelves ready!