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Category: Year in Review

2019 in Review

2019 certainly was a year. Here’s a little (okay, a long) review of mine. Probably of interest mainly to me, but I do like to look back and take stock, consider setbacks and relish victories, and think about any necessary course corrections.


I read about 125 books this year. My favorite new-to-me books were Sarah Gran’s Claire de Witt novels, which are sort of mysteries, sort of literary fiction with a mystical bent, and totally great and absorbing. I started reading Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books and really enjoy those too; such a deep and character-driven approach to what could be kinda standard police procedurals otherwise. Read a bunch of Ruth Ware, too, the best of which was probably The Turn of the Key. Read some Ruth Reichl, which led me to finally reading all of MFK Fisher’s books (I’d only read How to Cook a Wolf before), and developing a new appreciation for oysters.

I also read a ton of science fiction, and started a whole lot of books I didn’t finish, because I am on an award jury this year, and had to read strategically: if it wasn’t impressing the hell out of me within a couple chapters, it wasn’t gonna make the cut, and since I had 70 other books in the pile, I had to move on. Ones I particularly enjoyed were Ninth House by Bardugo, Raven Tower by Leckie, This Is How You Lose the Time War by El-Mohtar and Gladstone, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Harrow, Gingerbread by Oyeyumi, Exhalation by Chiang, Middlegame by Maguire, Black Leopard, Red Wolf by James (maybe “enjoyed” is the wrong word for that one; it was a rough read in parts but very ambitious and impressive), Wounds by Ballingrud, The Pursuit of William Abbey by North, and Songs for the Unraveling of the World by Evenson. (I liked lots of others too, but those are my tops.) (Lincoln in the Bardo by Saunders wasn’t a 2019 book but it’s marvelous too.)

Read a bunch of comics, too, including the on-my-list forever Achewood, and Waid’s Irredeemable (so dark!), and all of Simone’s Secret Six comics I hadn’t read yet.


It’s been an eventful year. Early on I did a little writing retreat in the lovely Marin home of my friends James and Ysa, where I drafted the majority of The Forbidden Stars and only went slightly insane with loneliness (the hot tub helped morale). I was Principal Speaker (guest of honor, basically) at Philcon in Philadelphia (well, Cherry Hill NJ, but basically) in November, and my wife Heather Shaw was special guest, and that was super cool. I also went down to Monterey and talked to writing classes and did a reading at Monterey Peninsula College (and went to the aquarium and wandered around the cuteness of the town with Aislinn), and that ruled. I took part in Litcrawl in San Francisco, emceeing a fun event at Public Works. I was also in the line-up for the inaugural Parallel Lit East Bay reading series organized by Meg Elison. I appeared on a few podcasts, including a fun one run by Stephen Aryan, who I met in London last year. I talked to my kid’s class during their “fantasy fiction” unit, and that was fun. Fifth graders ask good questions.

The Dreaming Stars earned out in its first royalty period (whoo!), and The Forbidden Stars came out to great reviews and appeared on a couple of bestseller lists (ibooks, Locus). I ran a kickstarter for new collection Miracles & Marvels, and it came out in the fall to positive reviews.

I’m on track to hit 250,000 words of fiction this year (I’m a bit short, but plan to write a bunch this weekend), which is a big bump from last year’s 170K and the year before’s 150K. It’s almost back to my hustling-desperately-for-grocery-money-years output levels. I didn’t mean to write that much, but see, I took a gig writing some interesting tie-ins I can’t tell you about yet, the first of which is due in late spring, and as a result, I had to move up the schedule for drafting my next original novel (which is also due in late spring, and which I also can’t tell you about, but I can soon!) to the end of 2019 instead of the start of 2020. Writing an extra novel pretty much accounts for the increase in wordage.

The rest of my output was stories, most for my Patreon, some commissioned: “Comfort and Joy,” (it’s coming out soon), “A Grace Family Christmas,” “A Door Is the Difference Between Outside and In,” “The Bodies,” “Nick and Will and the Door in the Hill,” “The Sleeping Warrior,” “This Is Your Lot,” “Six Ways Without You,” “Sunday Drive,” “The Murder Closet,” “The Zipper,” “A Champion of Nigh-Space,” “Blood and Sleep,” “In the Dungeon of Heart’s Desire,” and “The Door of Sleep.” I also wrote three little pieces for Pathfinder Tales for their Tales of Lost Omens series of vignettes: “When It Rains,” “The World Expands,” and “Far from Heaven”. (You should join my Patreon, and get a new story every month, plus access to that archive of three years’ worth of existing stories: Some of them are among my best work. “A Champion of Nigh-Space” in particular got a lot of buzz when it was reprinted in Uncanny

I also collaborated: on a story with Sarah Day called “Celestial Shores” that we’re shopping around, and the usual Podcastle holiday collaboration with Heather, this year with help from our son River, who got his first byline on “River’s Giving.”

I did a couple of reviews, too, for Locus, and owe them a year-in-review essay that’s due any minute now.

I was once again the judge for the science fiction/fantasy section of the Publishers Weekly Booklife prize for self-published works, and the winning title, Pluto’s Ghost by B.C. Chase, will appeal to fans of The Martian and cranky old guy protagonists being engagingly cranky. I’m on the jury for another prize, as I mentioned, but it’s new and hasn’t been publicly announced yet; it’s cool though. Soon, soon.


I like people! (Well, some people, anyway. A select few.) My wife has been writing and sewing and sewing and writing, and is getting into playwriting in a bigger way. Our son River turned 12, and is still into video games (and games in general), and is now a full-fledged roller coaster enthusiast as well, racking up some impressive rides, including a trip on the world’s tallest coaster, Kingda Ka, while we were in New Jersey. He started middle school this year and is thriving there. All three of us collaborated to create a card game, Cyber Wreck, which is super fun, and we’re probably going to force our friends to start playtesting soon. We rode bikes and went swimming and went to the Museum of Ice Cream and the boardwalk and had other adventures.

I continue to benefit from a community of smart and loving people who inexplicably choose to put up with me. Ais is still right down the street, playing great music with her band Three Drink Circus and generally being a ray of light; she’s always up for a movie or a beer, and as a bonus she draws whatever weird stuff I ask her for (this year she did great illustrations for Miracles & Marvels). Amanda is teaching at Stanford and UC Berkeley these days, busy as busy can be, but we still carve out time to hang out and drink wine and watch romantic comedies, and this year we even managed a long weekend trip. Emily is up in Portland becoming a doctor, which it turns out is time-consuming, but I got up to visit her a few times, and she came to visit me a couple times, and we had so many adventures and ate lots of delicious things (Blue Hour! La Luna! Salty’s! Pine State Biscuits!). Katrina has also gotten super busy with work and life stuff (I perceive a theme) but we got together as often as we could for WhiskeyHorror booze-and-movie nights, which are always a highlight. I see Sarah just about every week, and we watch Letterkenny and play video games and talk about writing and feast and frolic; we took a cool trip this summer too, of which more below. (We also watched most of the Phantasm franchise, for which I deserve hazard pay.)

I see other local friends too when the world allows. I reconnected with Zoe, drank whiskey with Daryl, hung out with Katie, enjoyed Effie and Josh’s assorted glorious gatherings, had a great time at Erin and Paul’s legendary July 4th cheese party, got to enjoy two parties at James and Ysa’s beautiful house, had some long chats with Elsa, and enjoyed people’s company en masse at our summer barbecue and my birthday party.

I saw faraway friends a bit: Hung out with Jenn and Chris a couple of times up in Portland, and saw Molly Tanzer, who crashed at our place for a few days while she was in town to do events for her excellent book Creatures of Want and Ruin. My best friend Dawson is briefly in the States after literal years of international travel, and is coming to visit us for a few days next week, which I’m super excited for, especially since New Year’s Eve was our high holy day back in the years when we lived together. I am rich in friends.


2018 is hard to top for travel (since I went to a whole other country last year), but I did a bit this year too.

I popped up to Portland in February to eat delicious things and take snowy walks with Emily, and we played VR games with Jenn and Chris (Beat Saber!).

At the end of February I spent a few days in a beautiful house in Marin mostly typing and talking to myself.

In June I headed to Santa Cruz with Amanda, and we got goat cheese in Pescadero and went to beaches and vineyards and hot tubs, oh my!

Late June and early July was the epic family road trip: me, Heather, River, and multiple amusement parks: two water parks and a roller coaster park in three days. The last day at Raging Waters we had a cabana and hung out with our friend Beth  and her kids (who got along great with River), and it honestly ruled.

In July Sarah and I went up to Sea Ranch and cooked things and looked at the breathtaking views and walked on the sea cliffs and it was super restful and inspiring.

In October I went to Monterey with Ais to talk to classes (as mentioned above). We ate all the fish and took all the walks. My friend Susie came down from Santa Cruz, and we all had a nice dinner at Melville’s.

In November the family did our big Philly trip, with lots of convention stuff, and platters of cheese, and multitudinous whiskeys, and a visit to the Franklin Institute (best science museum ever) and to a roller coaster park, and 50 strangers singing “Happy Birthday” to my son at the art show reception. It was an amazing trip.

At the end of November I headed up to Portland one more time, just a brief whirlwind visit, but we drank great booze and did lots of holiday shopping at Powell’s and the Saturday Market and did some fantastic cooking and restaurant-ing (I had a bourbon vanilla milkshake with BACON in it).


I’m here to pay off debt and chew gum and I’m all out of gum. My student loan is dead, and I just paid off another huge chunk of debt, too. I’m not out of the hole entirely yet, partly because of a big unexpected expense related to the car crash from 2018 (sigh), but even so I’m on track to reach zero by late 2020, barring the unforeseen. Things are way less tight than they ever have been in my life. If we need something, mostly we can just… buy it. In 2020 I actually have plans to put money aside for my child’s future, which was unimaginable before this.


I don’t think I’ve had this category before; never needed to. I’ve always been absurdly robust. Alas, age and genetics are catching up with me. A few weeks ago I got some bloodwork done and my glucose levels were shockingly high. Type 2 diabetes runs in my family (this is something of an understatement; it’s probably easier to count my close relatives who don’t have it), so I suppose it was inevitable, especially since I have always eaten like a ravenous teenager: you can’t beat the combo of nature and nurture. After a couple of weeks of eating less bread and pasta and sugar and more whole grains (and being on the appropriate drugs), my levels are now fine and I’ve dropped a couple pounds. It’s annoying but manageable. I suppose I’ll enjoy cheeseburgers more now that they’re a rare treat, but this is a rough shift for someone whose answer to “what’s your favorite food” has always been “sandwiches.” (Earlier in the year I also had a horrible bigger-than-a-golf-ball-sized abscess in an inconvenient place that had to be lanced and left a teensy scar, but let’s not go into all that.)

Various Things, Good and Bad

We spent the whole year without a car, and you know what? It’s been fine. My commute is a brief train ride and a brief walk. Heather works a mile from our house. River walks to school (or grabs the bus if it’s rainy or he doesn’t feel like walking not quite a mile). Sarah kindly loans me her car when I need to do errands I can’t do on public transit, and when we want to take a road trip, there’s an Enterprise car rental place on the corner. I’m not saying I’ll never have a car again, but cars were mostly just a source of horrifying surprise expenses for me, and it’s restful not having one.

My kid was on a community center trip to a theme park when there was a shooter scare (no shooter, it turned out, but people thought there was, and the panic was certainly real), and he ran a mile with strangers and climbed over fences and stuff to get to safety at a nearby hotel. Sarah came over in a flash so we could borrow her car and race to pick him up. It was awful, but he was so brave, and now he knows that in a scary situation he won’t freeze up or panic, but will do what he needs to do. I was afraid it would spoil amusement parks for him or lock him up with fear but it did neither. He’s so great. Getting his phone call, when he was running in fear for his life, was the most scared I have ever been. Reaching him and seeing he was safe was the most relieved I’ve ever been.

I’ve been cooking a ton in the instant pot I got last year. Favorites include butter chicken, mojo chicken, and fancy mac & cheese, but I’ve also poached pears in port wine and made broth and assorted soups and warm potato salad. I also made a lot of no-knead bread you can proof in the instant pot, it’s so fast!

I played some games I really liked: Prey and The Sinking City and Far Cry 5 especially. My kid got an Oculus Quest for Xmas so we’ve been playing Beat Saber and Superhot and stuff with that. It rules.

Saw very little theater, but the production of Arcadia at Shotgun Players was magnificent (and we had the best seats in the house, literally on the stage), and my nephew was one of the leads in his high school production of Mamma Mia, and that was super fun. I saw some good live music, including Three Drink Circus and Yard Sale and Sidney Gish.

I went to the Eat Real festival (always delight, and I had the best peach cider I can imagine, it was summer in a glass) and the Los Altos Art and Wine festival. I love the Bay Area and its assorted outdoor funtimes.

Next year is looking like a lot of reading (another year on the award jury awaits), writing (a work-for-hire novel… or two… and some Axiom novellas probably), some fun travel (I am going back to Maui in the spring, and another actual vacation destination to be determined in the summer), and some work travel that will incidentally be fun also I hope (the LA Times Festival of Books seems plausible, maybe other things too). I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Happy new year, all. May it bring you joy and peace.


2018 In Review

Here’s how my year was. It’s rambling and incomplete and mostly written as an aid for my own reflection, but read it if you like.


I read about 160 books, way more than my usual couple-books-a-week average, but that’s mostly because a whole lot of them were comics, and I can read three or four trades in an afternoon. I caught up on Saga, finished up Invincible and Ex Machina, re-read some bits of Transmetropolitan and The Boys, read Paper Girls, Fante Bukowski, some old Midnighter comics, caught up on The Walking Dead, read The Wicked + The Divine, read Alice Grove… it was a good year for comics.

My prose favorites were Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer (weird prohibition-era demonic magic), The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas (so many good stories), The Changeling by Victor Lavalle (magisterial writing, wrenching story), Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (a nasty little contained nightmare), Blackfish City by Sam Miller (weird ensemble future stuff, with an orcamancer), Martha Wells’s whole Murderbot Diaries series of novellas (I <3 Murderbot), Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files series (giant mech suits! and neat point-of-view stuff), Transcription by Kate Atkinson (a low-key spy novel, written with her usual grace and wit), Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (loved the stuff about gender and programming), Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (I liked it better than the Southern Reach books!), Brasyl and Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald (I love his stuff), The Power by Naomi Alderman (zap the patriarchy), Ada Palmer’s Terra Incognita series (frustrating but very thought-provoking), Stephen King’s The Outsider (I just like Holly Gibney basically), All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (this world is the one where the timeline went wrong!), Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (multi-generational psychic con artist family drama wonderfulness), Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (it looks like a Gone Girl-esque psychological thriller, then gets way weirder), and that’s probably enough.


What a year! The Wrong Stars was #1 on the Locus Bestseller list; first time that has ever happened to me. I lost a Philip K. Dick Award, but just being nominated was fantastic. The book sold well, too, with my first royalty check exceeding the amount I was paid for the book in the first place. That’s nice. Sequel The Dreaming Stars came out in September and seems to be doing pretty well too. I’m writing the third book in the series right now, The Forbidden Stars, and that’s going to wrap up the main action, though I will probably write some novellas set in the world in the future. I did some conventions and book events, including a couple of local appearances with Nick Mamatas and Meg Elison, plus panels and readings and such at Norwescon and in New York and at London Comic-Con.

I have an entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction now!

I did a Kickstarter for a Marla Mason collection, Do Better; print copies are on their way to me and should be zooming out to backers shortly. They got their ebooks already.

I wrote about 170,000 words this year, a little up from last year’s 150K, but still way down from the quarter-of-a-million word years I did annually for most of the prior decade. Not having to hustle and write two or three books a year to make money has been very restful, but I was probably too lazy in 2018. I may step things up a bit next year. I wrote four-fifths of The Dreaming Stars in February, during a single week at a writing retreat on the bayou in Louisiana with some wonderful writers. The rest of my output was short stories, including a dozen for my Patreon (still going strong!), a couple of commissioned holiday stories, and an original for my Do Better collection. The stories are “Twelve Days at Christmas”, “Dirty Santa”, “Hosting the Solstice”, “Through the Woods”, “Steal Away”, “Pages Recovered from a Partially Burned Volume, Bound in Goat Skin, Discovered in a New Hampshire Cave”, “Orchard of Worlds”, “The Four Horsepersons of the Eucatastrophe”, “The Tale of Crow and Lion”, “Do Better”, “Adaptive Traits”, “The Death of Grace”, “Sometimes You Get the Bear”, “Thank You For Joining Our Clinical Trial”, and “The Pentachoron Key”. A few of them are among the best things I’ve ever written. (You should join my Patreon, and get a new story every month, plus access to that archive of three years’ worth of existing stories:

I did a tiny bit of other writing, including a review of The Good Place for F&SF, so now I’m allowed to call myself a semi-regular columnist for the magazine, whee! I wrote a single review for Locus, of Nick Mamatas’s The People’s Republic of Everything, upcoming in the January 2019 issue. I’m doing a year-in-review essay for Locus, too.

I art directed in a small way, commissioning Jenn Reese to do the cover design for Do Better and Aislinn Harvey to draw some interior illustrations. Jenn drew a holiday rat for a chapbook for me, and Ais did a sinister reindeer for another chapbook. I loooove giving artists money.

I was the judge for the science fiction/fantasy section of the Publishers Weekly Booklife prize for self-published works, and the winning title, Fid’s Crusade by David Reiss, is super fun, smart and humane supervillain stuff.


I have good people in my life. My wife has been a creative whirlwind this year, sewing up a storm; almost all her holiday gifts were handmade and personal and super impressive. She’s making me an amazing quilt of my million old t-shirts for me! We’ve had a really good year and our house is a cozy refuge.

Our son turned eleven, and he’s growing up into a smart funny kind raucous person. We have a lot of fun playing games and watching shows and reading together and taking walks and discussing all sorts of things about life and the world. We go swimming, we ride bikes, we send him off on roller coasters, we have a great time. He’s in fifth grade and it’s going really well. He played John Darling in the school production of Peter and Wendy and did a fantastic job: “You offend reason, sir!” He’s such a big kid now, and he’s got more responsibilities and privileges and is doing well with both. He’s playing in a monthly D&D game too, which makes my heart warm. My kid!I am fortunate to have a close-knit and wonderful community of people who love me and spend time with me regularly. Ais still lives right down the street so we get together all the time for meals and movies and hanging out and doing weird stuff (the weirdest this year was probably seeing Robin Sloan do a talk about robots and bread hosted by Annalee Newitz in a dive bar under an overpass). Amanda is being scholarly down in Palo Alto but we get together whenever we can, and this year we took a wonderful trip on her birthday up to Napa, where we had a fancy champagne tasting that still makes me bubbly to recall. Emily is even farther away up in Portland but we managed to see a fair bit of each other this year, on various trips (more about those below), and when she came to keep me company, while Heather and River were in Indiana over the summer, and during the smokepocalypse in November — we went to see the Magritte exhibit at SF MOMA and it was glorious. I still see Katrina for weekly-ish WhiskeyHorror booze-and-movie nights and I also had the pleasure of taking her to a dinner with George R.R. Martin (and like twenty other writerly people) and to George’s onstage talk with John Picacio afterward. That was a treat. I see Sarah just about every week, too, and we drink and eat and frolic our way through the East Bay; we did a couple of great trips together as well, of which more below.

I see other local friends too when the world allows, catching up with Zoe, hanging out with Katie, writing with Erin and Daryl, going to great parties (Effie’s housewarming, with that cabinet of curiosities cake! Erin and Paul’s July 4th cheese party! David’s birthday dinner!), meeting Daphne’s new dog Tchotchke, hanging out with Elsa at barbecues and parties, and generally fighting back against my essentially hermitlike tendencies on a semi-regular basis, because it makes me happy to be around people I like.

I also got to see more farther-flung friends! I saw Jenn and Chris a couple of times up in Portland, saw Susan and Matt and their adorable kid in Brooklyn, my friend and agent Ginger in New York, caught up with Greg while he was in Petaluma on big fancy book tour, reconnected in a meaningful way with my college sweetheart the Feyrie Princess when she visited the Bay Area, had a wonderful night of pub-crawling with my later-in-college sweetheart Megan while I was in London, and had a great dinner with Besha and her partner in Portland. I saw a ton of people I adore in the writing community at conventions and parties and just because they were in town for Worldcon, and I started listing them all but it got WAY too long and I was afraid I’d forget someone, so just know: you’re all grand and I don’t see you nearly enough. I met lots of great people for the first time in London, writers and editors and publishing people I really hope to see more in the future (Worldcon is in Ireland next year…). It’s been my most social year in a long time.


Last year I said I traveled a ton. I had no idea how 2018 was going to be.

I went up to Portland in January for a Wrong Stars event at Powell’s, which went super well, and I got to see Emily and Connor and Jenn and Chris.

In February I went to Louisiana to spend a week at a writing retreat on the bayou, and it was the most productive week of my life, probably, writing-wise. (I also swam a lot and looked at lizards and ate great big meals and talked about writing and publishing and life with a dozen accomplished smart genius women writers and artists. Only the retreat cone of silence restrains me from tagging them all by name.)

In March I did a combined business-and-pleasure trip, first hanging out at a lovely beach house on the Oregon coast with Emily and actually relaxing, then bopping briefly to Portland, then heading up to Seattle for Norwescon, where I did authorial things and lost a Dick Award. (It was great anyway. It’s fun being a big deal at a convention.) I got to meet Galen Dara there!

I went to Santa Cruz a couple of times, once with Emily in June (for swimming and feasting and boardwalking and beach walking and drinking a flight of Pappy van Winkle, so, heaven) and once with Heather and River for the kid’s last big hurrah road trip of the summer (so it was 95% boardwalk and 5% milkshakes at Saturn Cafe, in other words, also heaven).

In August, I went up to Cazadero with Sarah and we enjoyed the glory of the redwoods and the river and hung out at my friend Mark’s bakery eating so many glorious carbs.

I went back to Portland in September to visit Emily just for fun, and it was really lovely, full of amazing meals (home-cooked and in restaurants), and we had a fantastic night in Jenn and Chris’s house playing drunken Drawful.

In October I was away from my house more than I was in it. I went to New York to read at the KGB Reading Series, and visit my agent, and see friends, and be a tourist, and Sarah was kind enough to accompany me and tromp all over botanical gardens and through bookstores and eat all the foods imaginable. My first trip to New York!

Less than a week after I returned from New York, I whooshed off to London! London Comic-Con flew me in, put me up in a hotel, and only made me work a little bit (some panels and signings). It was my first time out of the country and was mind-expanding in all the best ways, truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life on multiple axes. I was in the same room with a couple of Doctors Who and some horror movie villains at the same time so that was really cool.  I love a good green room. Free crisps!

After that I vowed not to go anywhere else all year.

(It was a lot a lot of travel, and Heather was heroic and kind to solo parent so much. She got to go to France for ten days, so I didn’t have ALL the fun, but travel was definitely tilted in my direction this year.)


Things continue to improve financially. I’m on track to be out of debt in a year-ish (it might be early 2020 before I squish the last of it, depending on how big my tax bill is this year, etc), and I’ve paid down enough already that I have a lot more breathing room than I used to. It’s very strange to need something (new boots, clothes for my kid, whatever) and just… be able to buy it. I have a ways to go before I’m totally stable, and this all assumes things continue to work well in terms of day job and writing career, but for the first time in my entire adult life, I can see the top of the hole from here.

Various Things

Last year we bought a van; this year we totaled it in an accident on the way home from our last road trip of the summer in Santa Cruz. River and I escaped unscathed but Heather got a concussion. My first ever serious accident. It sucked. We haven’t bought a new car (we can walk and mass transit quite easily for our day-to-day needs) and I get pretty tense when I drive, even a few months later.

I got a passport!

We got fast internet several months ago and our quality of life is SO much better. Did you know Netflix isn’t always blurry and pixely? Amazing!

My day job moved offices, from the old car factory by the Wal Mart in San Leandro to an adorable space in Preservation Park, Oakland, a nine-minute train ride from my house. I loooove my new commute, just as much as I hated my old one.

I played some games I really liked: Oxenfree, neat narrative, good writing and voice acting, puzzles even I could do. Superhot was cool too, with an interesting dynamic. I spent MANY HOURS on Metal Gear Solid V. I do love stealth action.

I read in my hammock a lot and had many lovely meals in the yard and a lot of great chats in the kitchen with people who are smarter and nicer than me, and truly, though the larger state of the nation and world has some definite vile qualities, the texture of my personal life was overall very good in 2018.

Happy new year, all. May it bring you joy and peace.

2017 in Review

I like doing year-in-reviews. (Years-in-review? Year-ins-review?) This is long and self-indulgent, which is just how I like it.


This is my first full year tracking my reading diligently (on Goodreads, though I don’t use it for anything besides keeping a list of books I read and re-read). I read just over a hundred books, though there were lots of graphic novels in there. I’ve been reading a book or two a week since I was a teenager, apart from a period when I had a newborn and couldn’t brain well enough to read, and that’s stayed consistent.

My favorites were The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, Gail Simone’s Clean Room comics, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall, Sharon Olds’s Stag’s Leap, and Warren Ellis’s Injection comics. I recommend ‘em all. I also read all the Jack Reacher novels, which scratched my series mystery/thriller itch pretty well, clearly.


I published the last Marla Mason novel, Closing Doors, in the spring, and people really liked it. I think maybe I stuck the landing. My first space opera The Wrong Stars came out in November to great reviews (a star in PW! A rave from Liz Bourke in Locus!) and good sales (#5 on the Barnes & Noble mass market bestseller list last month!). I sold a couple of sequels too, The Dreaming Stars and The Forbidden Stars, so I’m gainfully employed as a novelist through 2019.

Heather and I did a Kickstarter for The Christmas Mummy and Other Carols, and that’s newly out, with copies winging their way to backers through the holiday mails. Had my story “Impossible Dreams” optioned for a VR project; dunno if it’ll come to anything, but it’s neat.

I wrote about 150,000 words this year, which is, uh, about half as many as last year, and way down from my usual average; I usually do at least a quarter of a million. After years of hustling and writing two or three books a year, I was finally financially able to take a breather. I wrote almost all of The Wrong Stars in January, February, and March, and after that, it was just short stories (and some game writing for the Wolfire Games project Overgrowth), until I recently started work on The Dreaming Stars.

I did my Patreon all year, with lots of stories, including “Background and Foreground”, “Reaping a Whirlwind”, “Three Petitions to the Queen of Hell”, “Cascade Wonderland”, “Anna and Marisol in Time and Space”, “To Seek and Understand”, “A Door of My Own”, “Invidiosa vs. the Resurrected Man”, “Thankful”, and “The Gift of the Anthropophagi”. You should join, and get a new story every month:

Heather and I co-wrote “The Christmas Abomination from Beyond the Back of the Stars”, a sequel to “The Christmas Mummy.”

I wrote some essays and stuff too, but really, it was a very mellow year. I used my free time to, um, play video games mostly. I may attempt to be more productive as a writer next year.

I art directed a tiny bit: Aislinn Harvey did illustrations for my book Closing Doors and for The Christmas Mummy and Other Carols, too, and she’s a delight to work with creatively.


My ongoing experiment with spending time with actual humans has been really good, and continues to contribute materially to my happiness. Obviously I see my family the most, and my wife Heather has done some amazing stuff this year, editing Persistent Visions, hosting Saturday Write Fever, dancing with the Someday Sweethearts, getting her name on the spine of a book for the first time with The Christmas Mummy and Other Carols, sewing zillions of things—she continues to astonish me with her creativity and her social adroitness is something I greatly envy.

My son turned ten this year, and he’s just the best. He’s into aikido now, and playing ukulele, and doing chorus—he’s finding things to be passionate about, which is so wonderful to see. We’re also still watching lots of TV and movies together, and gaming (I got sucked back into Magic: the Gathering after 20 years because of him, and I couldn’t be happier). We got his results back on the big state test from the spring, and he did great on the English section and got a perfect score on the Math. He’s such a great person. He’s also preternaturally beautiful, but he gets that from his mom.

I’ve got some wonderful people I see a lot who don’t live in my house with me, too. Ais lives right down the street, so we do lots of wandering and hanging out together, and I’m going to see her fantastic band Three Drink Circus tonight! We went to see Judge John Hodgman live at the Curran in January and it was great too. I see Amanda down in Palo Alto as often as I can (she’s the one I dedicated The Wrong Stars to), and we went to see the interactive theater experience Speakeasy together this summer, which was amazing, really unforgettable. I spent some time running around Sonoma with Emily (we swam in the Russian River, with a bunch of Russians!), and saw her up in Portland too, and got to show her around Berkeley a bit as well, and made lots of marvelous memories. I’m still getting together just about every week with Katrina to drink whiskey and watch horror movies (we just saw Sint, which is bad; Rare Exports is still the best Xmas horror movie we’ve found). Sarah moved closer a few months ago, so I get to see her way more often in general (yay!) and we drank all the beer and ate all the tacos in San Diego recently, in addition to lots of time drinking and dining around the East Bay.

I also got to see more farther-flung friends! Dawson came to visit us and stayed a few days before embarking on his world travels. I got to see Jenn and Chris up in Portland and at Norwescon, and hung out with Greg in San Diego for as long as he’d tolerate me too. It was a great year for being with people I love. I hung out a couple of times with my friend Katie, too, and while she isn’t far-flung, she’s busy, so she’s always a treat. I did a little writing with Erin, and had some awesome game nights with Liza and Daryl and Effie and others. I’m so lucky to have good people in my life.


I traveled a ton this year! I got some surprise reprint money in January when Heather was out of town, so me and the boy and Ais took a spontaneous trip down to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. My wife and kid and I went up to Cazadero to stay in our friend Mark’s B&B (&B; the third B is for his bakery), and did a more traditional summer boardwalk trip together too. We road tripped as well, and went to the Winchester Mystery House and Hearst Castle and spent a weekend at an adorable cabin in Santa Barbara. Did a day at a water park, to my child’s eternal delight (“This is better than Disneyland!”). Took River to the beach to see tidepools and the secret beach near the end of summer too while Heather burning-manned.

Now that my kid is older, it’s easier to solo parent him, so his mom and I have both been taking little jaunts here and there in addition to family outings. I went up to Norwescon in Seattle, my first time in the city, and I really loved it. Drove to Sonoma for wine and swimming and beer. Flew to Portland and rode a tram and ate the best charcuterie of my life. Jaunted down to San Diego to do an appearance at Mysterious Galaxy for The Wrong Stars (and for tacos and beer and birthday fun). After years of not going places or doing things it’s a nice change to have the occasional adventure.

Various Things

We bought a van (the old Locus van; it has sentimental value), which has made road trips so much easier.

We had to hide in a nearby Air BNB for days while our floors got torn up and the pipes were fixed, following an interval of intense flooding. Now we have nice laminate floors instead of gross old carpeting!

Heather skipped the usual big birthday party this year (but thanks to Zoe for swooping in and bringing Heather’s favorite amaretti cream cake when I couldn’t pick it up; above and beyond.) Instead, she threw an amazing 20-years-in-the-bay-area barbecue in the summer.

Saw the Three Drink Circus anti-Valentine’s Day sing-along with my kid in tow. That was neat.

Went to the Milo protests at UC Berkeley, which by the end was less riot and more dance party than most media reports indicated.

We listened to Hamilton a lot (and I got Heather tickets to the show in San Francisco).

Saw Nalo Hopkinson speak at Stanford and got to chat and catch up with her a bit, and she led me to some thoughts that improved my space opera.

Bought my kid a new bike and we whooshed and rode around the marina and stuff.

Went to my beloved Cafe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz one last time before it closed.

Had a great launch party at Borderlands for The Wrong Stars.

My grandfather passed away; may his memory be eternal.


Another year older and… not deeper in debt? Wait, that can’t be right. Huh.

After years of being crap with money (partly because I didn’t have any, partly because I never learned anything about how to budget, etc.), I decided now that I’m in my 40s I should get my house in order and try to pay down debt. I managed to get ahead of the rolling nightmare of using a given year’s income to pay off the previous year’s tax bill, which was ongoing for a long time, and that made a big difference. My Patreon has been the biggest factor here: my day job pretty much pays my bills (with help from writing income to cover shortfalls), and the regular Patreon income just all gets hurled at my student loan and credit card debt. Assuming things continue to go well, I should be out of debt by mid-2020. Of course, in the meantime, I still don’t have much money, because the extra is being thrown into the debt-hole, but it’s progress.

Happy new year, all. May it bring you joy and peace.

2016 in Review

Yes, yes, years are arbitrary constructs with no inherent meaning, blah blah. So are laws, governments, borders, money, gender, race, social structures, religion, and sports. That doesn’t mean they aren’t real, and for me, the end of one year and the start of another has always been a potent time. An opportunity to look back, and look forward, and note long-term patterns, and make course-corrections as necessary.

It’s been a crap year in a large sense. You all know. But I’ve dwelled on the bad a lot; I’m going to think about the good now, in retrospect.

I read a bunch of books. I had the bright idea to finally start tracking my reading using Goodreads, which is simple, and since I started doing that in May I read or re-read about 70 books (there are a bunch of comics collections in there inflating the numbers; I average a book or two a week, as I have for decades). I did a year-in-review essay for Locus about my favorites, but I really liked I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Hard Light by Elizabeth Hand, and The Pleasure Merchant by Molly Tanzer (the latter not new in 2016, but new to me). (People keep trying to friend me on that site or whatever. I literally just use it to track my reading. Don’t be hurt if I use it for nothing else. It’s not personal.)

A few years back I decided to spend more time with actual humans instead of sitting alone in my house and reading and watching TV all the time, and as a result my life changed vastly for the better. (Though it cut way into my video game time.) This year I’ve kept up some vitally important relationships, deepened others, and met some new people who became rapidly essential to my mental health and well-being. They know who they are. I’m cranky and misanthropic upon casual acquaintance but effusive with those I adore. What can I say: I have a limited number of settings. I had more wonderful dinners, and long talks hanging out on my couch, and strolls around nice places, and beers on patios, with those friends than I can possibly enumerate.

There were good parties too! Ais’s birthday party on New Year’s Day was fantastic and I got to talk to some amazing people who I can’t even mention without it looking like name-dropping. Heather’s birthday party was a fantastic rager as usual. The Bacchanal party at Jeff and Katrina’s was epic, as was the later vodka and caviar party. Open mic at my friend Elliotte’s Unicorn Estate was fun, too, reading some poems and singing Kimya Dawson’s “Alphabutt” with Ais to some kids. Heather and I had a great barbecue in the summer (and saw old friends we hadn’t seen in ages!). Jeff and Katrina’s hobbit-themed wedding anniversary/second wedding was a fantastic party. My birthday party (I turned 40; seems improbable, but there it is) was marvelous too and I got sooooo much good whiskey I won’t need to buy a bottle until sometime in the spring, I suspect.

Still doing WhiskeyHorror with Katrina on a regular basis. We saw many not-very-good movies, and a few great ones. (Maybe I should keep track of the movies I watch too? It’s getting a little “quantified life” up in here.) The whiskey was always good, and likewise the company. My screwball comedy-watching buddy Amy moved away to Seattle (sob) but I’m watching stuff with Effie sometimes, which helps assuage the terrible etc. I also wrote in cafes occasionally with Effie, and Erin, and Daryl, which makes me feel less cataclysmically alone as an artist and so on.

We took good trips: a couple of jaunts up to Cazadero to stay in our friend Mark’s B&B. He’s great, his kids are great, the place is great, the food is great (there’s a bakery attached!), and it’s a glory and a joy to spend the occasional weekend there. We jaunted down to Santa Cruz once or twice. Over the summer we spent a few days at Disneyland and California Great Adventure with River, who had the best imaginable time (it was pretty fun for the grown-ups, too; our hotel had a rooftop bar!). In November I stayed a week in Portland thanks to the kind hospitality of Jenn and Chris; I ate so much, drank so much, video gamed so much, and made variously merry. We had some good visitors here, too. My high school buddy Millard was in town with his family and we ate barbecue and hung out one day. Dawson did his annual visit and stayed over for a few days, and we talked of many things, and also drank of many things.

I went to a bitter Valentine’s sing-along show with Three Drink Circus, and it was great fun, and I think the only show I attended all year! Weird. Oh, no, wait, I got Heather tickets to Amy Schumer for our anniversary so we went to that and it was good too.

Saw a short film, The New Year, based on my story “Happy Old Year”: Elsie Jarrow brought to life. I should be able to send you all a link to that shortly as it’s expected to be generally available soon online. [Edit: it just went live at! Watch!]

Continued at my day job as senior editor at Locus, working with Liza and the rest of the staff to make the news make sense and tell you what you should read and highlight great writers and all that. I still like it a lot.

I took some concrete steps to get my disarrayed finances in order. Not exciting, and not super fun to talk about, but see above re: turning 40. It’s probably time to deal with all those things, so I am.

Writing stuff:

I wrote about 310,000 words this year, about a novella’s worth more than I did last year. There were two novels in there: Liar’s Destiny, the fourth Rodrick and Hrym novel in my Pathfinder Tales series. I’m not sure when that one will be published at this point; you’ll know when I do. The other book was Closing Doors, the last Marla Mason novel, which is out to Kickstarter backers now and will go on general sale around February 1. There’s an audiobook coming later this year too. I only published one novel in 2016, Liar’s Bargain, my favorite Rodrick and Hrym book.

I also sold a brand new novel, potentially the first in a series. Signed the contract and everything. I’ll tell you about it later this month, probably.

The majority of my writing was stories! This was my first full year of doing the Patreon, and that accounts for a full dozen stories: “Unfollowed,” “The Witch and the Womanizer,” “A Pathway Up and Down,” “The Doorman,” “The Downstairs Neighbor,” “Soft Open,” “Bound by Grace,” “Six Jobs,” “Barrow of Ulthar in: The Tomb of the Bibliophage,” “Invidiosa vs. the Chamber of the Dead,” “Sophie of Two Worlds,” and “Under the Tree.” (And you can read them all, and eight more from 2015, if you back my Patreon at For like a dollar.)

Other stories include “Heavy Game of the Pacific Northwest” for Associates of Sherlock Holmes, about Col. Sebastian Moran hunting bigfoot; Marla Mason story “The Atheist in the Garden” (started in 2015, but not finished until early 2016, so I’ll count it); humorous fantasy “Kaylee the Huntress” for UFO 5; “But You Can’t Stay Here” for Mixed-Up, an upcoming anthology of flash stories and cocktail recipes; an erotica story (I dusted off my old pseudonym); “Murmured Under the Moon” for an upcoming SF/fantasy anthology; “Firecracker,” my first straight crime story, for an upcoming noir anthology; “A Sea Serpent in a Bathtub” for another fantasy anthology; and I co-wrote holiday story “It’s a Wonderful Carol” with Heather Shaw. That’s 20 (and a half) stories! Pretty good. Really nice to be centering story work in my life again. I also wrote a few book reviews, and a TV review (of Stranger Things; my first publication in F&SF!).

Going Forward

Goals, abstract and specific: Keep spending time with humans I like. Stay on top of the financial stuff. Get back to the reasonably healthy lifestyle I had going before the holiday food and booze bombs started to fall. Help my son run his first tabletop RPG games. Write an Elsie Jarrow novel. Do a collection of Marla Mason stories so I can tie a bow around the whole series. Do a collaborative collection of mine and Heather’s holiday stories. Fight against the rising tides of fascism.

Happy new year, all. May it bring you joy and peace.


2015 Year in Review

2015 gets a stake in the heart. Here’s how it was for me.

Way back in 2013 I made a decision to be less of a misanthropic hermit and actually spend time with other humans socially, and it was the best decision I’ve made in ages. Each year since has been more fulfilling, and while I’m still not an extrovert, I enjoy company more than I did before, and take great satisfaction in my friendships. Last year I made some new friends and got closer with old friends, too. Seeing other humans beats sitting on my couch glaring at the curtains.

2015 highlights in scattered order include:

My wife Heather and our son and I took a trip to San Diego for Westercon, which included amazing fun-times at Legoland (and its water park!).

We spent our tenth wedding anniversary weekend in Santa Cruz, visiting old familiar favorite places and eating delicious things and drinking tasty alcohols.

Kept up the ongoing almost-weekly pleasures of WhiskeyHorror with Katrina (often joined by Heather, if we were watching things that weren’t too gory). Also continued occasional fancy cheese and screwball comedy nights with Amy (and sometimes special guest Effie).

My friend (and sometime artist for our chapbooks and ‘zines) Ais moved into my neighborhood, so now she can drop by and give us fresh-baked scones and stuff at will.

My son continues to become a fascinating person who reads and kicks my ass at video games on the regular. We helped him host his first sleepover/slumber party night this year, which felt like a pretty big milestone.

I went to a luncheon where Joyce Carol Oates was the guest and talked to her about Lovecraft, swoon.

Went to see a new Star Wars movie, in a great theater, with my wife and son and nephew, and the latter two had an epic lightsaber battle afterward. That’s what that kind of movie is for.

Did lots of afternoon coffeehouse writing dates with my friend Erin. Enjoyed many fine afternoons drinking beer on patios or bourbon in bars, and lunching with my wife on my day off. So much pizza and fried cheese balls and burgers and beer.

My day job office moved from the hills of Oakland to San Leandro, which was a trial, but on the plus side I inherited a bunch of sweet outdoor furniture, so our backyard is even more amazing now. We hosted a barbecue, a couple of epic birthday parties, and a bunch of game nights.

Attended some great parties too, including Jeff and Katrina’s wedding, and a couple of soirees at Elliotte’s always-magical Unicorn Estate.

I wandered around the Eat Real festival with good friends and ate too much. Always my favorite festival of the year.

Went swimming with my family often throughout the summer at pools all over the East Bay.

I went to a few shows, notably Juliana Hatfield Three at the Chapel (soooo goooooood) and some Three Drink Circus shows, and the Mousetrap at Shotgun Players, and Ais’s art show at Borderlands..

Enjoyed a visit from my college sweetheart whom I haven’t seen in years, and we had our annual visit from Dawson, both delights.

Writing stuff:

I wrote about 280,000 words of fiction, whee. Finished Lady of Misrule in early January and drafted novels Liar’s Bargain and Queen of Nothing. Wrote 60 pages of a space opera that’s out on submission now. Did some writing work for a video game about snipers.

Published some books: short novel The Deep Woods, Marla Mason novels Lady of Misrule and Queen of Nothing (running a successful Kickstarter campaign for the latter), and Pathfinder Tales novel Liar’s Island.

Wrote a ton of stories, way more than in recent years, partly because of another big writing thing this year: I launched a Patreon in May. I write a new story each month for about 120 supporters (and counting). My patreon stories were “North Over Empty Space,” “Not a Miracle but a Marvel,” “The Wilderness Within,” “First and Last Breaths,” “Fool’s Fire,” “The Soul Broker,” and “Who Has Everything.” I’d rank a couple of those stories among the best work I’ve ever done.

Also wrote a holiday story with Heather, “Winter Jinni,” for Podcastle, and we made it into our print holiday chapbook, too, with art by Ais. Wrote “Ice Murder Safari” for Lady of Misrule Kickstarter backers and “The Atheist in the Garden” for Queen of Nothing backers, “Project Disaster” for an anthology, and I’m almost done with a story called “Heavy Game of the Pacific Northwest” that I need to turn in Monday. It is so good to be writing lots of short fiction again.

There are some interesting potential things on the horizon that have their roots in this year, but I’ll wait for next year to see if they materialize.

I did some writerly events, notably a great reading at Borderlands for Litcrawl.

There were some bad bits this year. My neighbor’s brother got shot on our block and I saw him bleeding on the sidewalk (he’s recovered and is fine). I had a couple of friendships end in annoyingly dramatic ways (though in both cases I take comfort in the fact that at least I didn’t do anything toxic or awful), and I mourn them. I could enumerate other disappointments and losses but I’d rather look forward, today.

Wishing you all goodness in the coming year.


2014 Year in Review

I feel bad saying so, because I know this year was a psychotic uplifted grizzly bear armed with neurotoxin-coated machetes for a lot of people, but — 2014 was one of the best years I’ve had, personally.

The rest of this is mostly for my benefit, because I enjoy looking back on the past year, so forgive the self-indulgence, and feel even freer than usual to skip reading it.

I have continued the changes I made in 2013, which are mostly related to being less of a misanthropic hermit and more of a social animal, and as a result, I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt happier, more balanced, or more personally fulfilled. (For a long time I resisted the notion that I needed anybody, believing I was such a natural introvert that if I had books and whiskey I could happily forget the existence of the rest of humanity, but it turns out: nope. Ah well, it only took until I was in my mid-thirties to figure that out, could’ve been worse.)

I continued the habit I began partway through 2013 of writing down three good things that happened every day (with occasional notes on less-happy things, when they have sufficient mass to seem unavoidable). It’s got the same pleasures as the daily journaling I used to do two decades ago, but with rather less comprehensiveness, so it’s easy to keep up, and it does actually seem to make me happier.

Exercise and eating better also continued (funny how it’s easier once it becomes a habit), and while I could still stand to drop a stone or two, I’ve been maintaining pretty well, holiday excesses notwithstanding.

2014 highlights include:

The establishment of WhiskeyHorror, wherein my friend Katrina comes over and we drink assorted whiskey things and watch horror movies two or three times a month, always a high point of my week.

My wife getting a new job she didn’t like and then getting a new new job that she LOVES which includes vast quantities of free beer.

Many trips to Golden Gate Park, where my wife does dancing and me and the kid wander and frolic on the playground.

Road trips to Santa Cruz to hang out on the boardwalk, including one day with our friends Scott and Lynne and their son, while they were down from the frozen North.

A trip to North Carolina/South Carolina for my college sweetheart Adrienne’s wedding. Basically being buzzed the whole time with my boy D, drinking on patios. Hanging out with my high school sweetheart Amily. Sometimes you can go home again, for a little while, even when it’s not home anymore.

Lots of afternoon coffeehouse writing dates with my friend Erin. A few fine afternoons drinking beer on patios or bourbon in bars or cider in living rooms with people I adore.

Our friend Daryl came into town on book tour and we went out to dinner with a bunch of people including Aussies Garth and Sean, with much sangria vanquished, and some karaoke bourbon funtimes after.

Hosted a couple of barbecues and a rather epic birthday party.

Seeing my kid play a wolf in a school play. Rawr! And doing gymnastics at his gymnastic camp’s show.

The usual street festivals, notably Eat Real!

Playing ten million games with my kid, and also hosting some grown-up game nights too. Running a D&D game again!

Going to a few shows, notably the Three Drink Circus show at the Hotel Burlington in lovely Port Costa and our friend Jeff’s first art show at a gallery that had a big slide so my kid was even entertained.

Wonderful houseguests, including D and Jenn, who were gone too soon, alas, but such joy while they were here.

Writing stuff:

We published an issue of Flytrap!

Did a successful kickstarter for Lady of Misrule (and a failed one for Flytrap, ah well)

Did many writerly events: read at InsideStory Time, and at FreeMade SF (with my friend Ais playing ukulele in a Catwoman costume while I read my Batman fanfic “Batman and Wife”), our Flytrap launch, two book signings/readings at Endgame, Litquake, Litcrawl, talked to a writing class at Stanford.

Wrote a bit under a quarter of a million words, actually my least-productive year in terms of word count since I began keeping track in 2011. But I did some stories: “That Time Hell Froze Over”, “Mother of the Bride”, “Larping the Apocalypse 2: The Nano-Plague”, “Sorcerer’s Honeymoon”, “Manic Nixie Dream Girl”, “A Wedding Night’s Dream”, “The Maiden’s Kiss”, “The Real and the Really Real”, and “Hunters in the Wood”.  All sold (though a few were Kickstarter-related chapbook stories), some published, some forthcoming.

Wrote a few books: Liar’s Island, The Tesla Protocol (sequel to The Stormglass Protocol), and Lady of Misrule. The first two are done and delivered; the last one still needs some heavy lifting on revision but should be done in a couple weeks. Also did a ton of revisions and copyedits and so on, which is part of why my word count is low for the year. (The other reason is laziness, of course.)

There were bad things. The IRS hounded us for money we didn’t owe for most of the year. We lost my friend Jay to cancer. In general I wrote too many obituaries last year. I could come up with others. But here at the beginning of the year I am trying to focus on the positive: the good that went before, the good yet to come.

I hope there is goodness ahead for all of you.

2013 in Review

Looking back over 2013… it’s been a good year. One of my best years, honestly.

After thinking a lot about my levels of happiness, and what I could do to increase them, I made some pretty big changes this year, and have actually stuck with them for the entire year, which makes me think they might become habitual.

One was taking better care of my body, since I put on a lot of weight in 2012; I did not enjoy weighing one-eighth of a ton, so I started eating better and exercising more. I dropped about 40 pounds in 2013 — okay, after excessively rich holiday food it’s more like 35 right now, but I’ll get back there — and I feel vastly better. More energy, my clothes fit better (indeed, whole heaps of old clothes in the back of my closet fit again), and I’ve rewired my brain sufficiently that looking upon a plate of immensely greasy fried food no longer fills me with intense desire, but rather with queasiness. (I still have a weakness for ice cream, which I do indulge — because life is for living — but I indulge rather less frequently than I once did.)

The other significant change was fighting against my natural hermit-like tendencies, as I’ve come to recognize that spending time with other humans, especially if I’m drinking beer or playing games or taking part in other pleasant diversions with them, is crucial to my mental health. It is no longer entirely accurate to say I never go places or do things. I’ve made new friends and managed to spend more time with old ones, and it’s been great. Now if I go a week without drinking beer with people on a patio somewhere I get stir crazy, which is a huge change from my past mindset, when I was so introverted I barely interacted with anyone besides family and co-workers in the real world unless I was at a convention.

I was worried that socializing more would cut into my writing time or reading time, but mostly it’s replaced my video-game-playing time, so that’s a trade I’m happy to make.

Other adventures in 2013: Helping to run the first annual (we hope) Dragon’s Lair writing retreat up on the Russian River. Really, Heather did all the heavy organizing, so I mostly just got to hang out with awesome people and cook a lot of food and sit in a hot tub and talk about writing and, oh, yes, actually do some writing, too.

We took the kid to Disneyland in the spring (and went to Wondercon, since it was right down the street). We also made it to the Nebula Awards weekend in April down in San Jose (highlight: a dinner with Jay Lake and various other writerly types), and I went to local convention Convolution in  November and babbled on some panels. The only other substantial travel was an epic trip to Missouri to visit family with my son in July, which involved an unscheduled three-day stop in Chicago on the way home because of a plane crash at the San Francisco Airport causing our connecting flight to be canceled. The lovely Mary Anne Mohanraj put us up in her beautiful home in Oak Park for the duration of our stranding, and Chicagoan Holly McDowell took us to lunch one day, so as far as travel disasters go it was pretty fantastic.

I actually saw a bit of live music this year, after a few years of not going to shows. Heather wrote a haiku for a contest and won VIP tickets to the huge Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park, which was amazing. Nine Inch Nails and Paul McCartney and lots and lots of other bands, and also foooood. Later I saw Sean Nelson and the Long Winters play a great show in San Francisco with a friend.

Other highlights that involved leaving my house: The family went to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz in the summer, always a delight. We attended various festivals, notably Eat Real and the Berkeley Kite Festival. We went to a weird cool art thing, the Lost Horizon Night Market, which briefly sparked a desire in me to do weird cool art, which fortunately passed.

My kid got a bicycle for Christmas in 2012, and learned to ride it in January, and we spent much of the summer going on rides pretty much every weekend, tearing up and down trails all over the East Bay, some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my kid (which is a pretty high bar). The boy started kindergarten in the fall. Insert the usual stuff about how they grow up so fast, etc.; which is cliche, but so very true.

Our friend Dawson visited twice, for Heather’s birthday in January and for our son’s birthday in November. Heather had an amazing birthday cocktail party where we drank loooots of sidecars. At the other end of the year, in December, I had a birthday party (weird, but see above re: being more social) where I drank ridiculous quantities of bourbon. The boy’s birthday party involved many many bounce houses. We all celebrate in our own way.

There was some writing stuff too.

I published some books. My collection Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories came out in January, and I’m so proud of it. My banter-filled sword and sorcery novel Liar’s Blade was published in March, and it’s one of the most fun books I’ve ever written. The middle-grade spy novel I co-wrote with Andy Deemer, The Stormglass Protocol, came out in September and has picked up some great reviews. Anthology Rags & Bones, co-edited with my dear friend Melissa Marr, appeared in October and has been getting a fantastic reception. The e-book of my latest Marla Mason novel Bride of Death came out this fall, and will be available in print in January.

I’ve written a bit over 300,000 words of fiction and paid non-fiction this year. That’s mostly three full novels written in 2013: Bride of Death, an as-yet-untitled sequel to my book City of the Falling Sky, and contemporary fantasy Heirs of Grace (which may be the best book I’ve ever written). I wrote a few stories, too: “Bastard, Sword”; “Secret Storage,” with Greg van Eeekhout; “The Retgun”; “Revels in the Land of Ice”; “Batman and Wife”; “Seasonal Disorder”, with Heather Shaw;”Happy Old Year; and “Those Who Hunt Monster Hunters.” Most of those are out, or coming out, except “Batman and Wife” which I wrote to perform at a reading, and “Those Who Hunt…” which is on submission. The rest of the wordage consists of miscellaneous essays and reviews and such.

I sold some books, including two of the three I wrote this year, and another Pathfinder Tales novel I need to write next year. For someone whose career crashed and burned in 2009, I keep fairly busy.

Heather and I decided that, since our kid is a bit older now and we find ourselves with the occasional bit of free time, that we’d relaunch our ‘zine Flytrap, this time mostly as an online entity (though we’ll produce a limited number of print issues), paying professional rates for fiction. (Though SFWA just raised their rates, so we’re not paying pro rates by their definition anymore; oh well.) We did a Kickstarter to fund the magazine, and the new issue — Whole number 11, or Volume 2 Number 1 — should be out in February with great stories and art and non-fiction and poems.

I also ran a successful Kickstarter for Bride of Death, the new Marla Mason novel. It was, like, the fifth most successful publishing Kickstarter of all time for a little while there (though I’m sure it’s fallen drastically in the rankings since then, as there are more and more great projects funding every day). Still: I got paid about as much for that book as Random House used to pay me, which was pretty amazing.

I did some fun readings, including a really cool one at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco to launch publisher Freemade SF, which included an amazing “pop-up supper club” meal and live musicians playing onstage along with the readers. The Litquake event at SF in SF was also fantastic.

Lest this seem excessively pollyanna-ish, I’ll note there were of course some bad bits too, though nothing all that drastic. The IRS still seems to think we owe them thousands of dollars (they are mistaken; they failed to record a check we sent, though they succeeded in cashing it), and has been sending us letters for most of the year promising to research the matter in the next 45 days. (We get those every six weeks or so, funnily enough.) That’s been intermittently stressful. We’ve endured the occasional clogged drain, overflowing washing machine, or — just this week — plaster falling from the bathroom ceiling, which also made life annoying, but hey, we rent, and the landlord fixes things promptly. I had some wisdom teeth removed, and then a bone spicule worked its way partially out of my gum, causing much discomfort until my orthodontist filed it down. (Gross, sorry.) Occasional bouts of illness. But nothing epically bad.

Basically: I ate many fine meals (buffalo burgers! rabbit liver mousse!) drank many fine beers (Death and Taxes! Coffee and Cigarettes! Bony Fingers!), did many fun things, made delicious popsicles, read wonderful books, watched good TV, played amusing games, and generally fulfilled my general ongoing goal of making my life revolve around love and art and sustainable hedonism.

2012 Was

The turning of the year has a lot of personal significance for me. I’m not what you’d call a spiritual person, but I do acknowledge and adore the power of ritual: looking back over the past year and contemplating what I’d like to change for the next one is an important part of how I organize my life.

So: in terms of writing, last year was just fine. I produced about 320,000 words of fiction and non-fiction. (50K fewer than last year! I’m slipping! But that’s okay.)

For novels, I started the year finishing off The Constantine Affliction (writing the last 16K or so), then wrote a work-for-hire middle-grade spy novel (about 80K total) and my Pathfinder Tales novel Liar’s Blade (about 90K). All that was in the first six months of the year — and there were editorial revisions to do on novels during those months, too.

The first half of 2012 was so brutal in terms of work that I took it easy for the rest of the year. (Of that 320K written? 230K were written by the end of June.)

I wrote a few stories: “A Tomb of Winter’s Plunder,” “Right Turns,” “Wishflowers,” “The Cold Corner,” “Snake and Mongoose,” “A Cloak of Many Worlds,” “The Fairy Library,” “Cages,” “Care and Feeding,” and “Ghostreaper,” and co-wrote (with Heather Shaw) “Postapocalypsmas” and “Catching the Spirit.” All sold except “Care and Feeding” (which is in circulation) and “Ghostreaper” (which I just finished).

I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for my story collection Antiquities and Tangibles. Crowdfunding continues to be an interesting and exciting part of my writing life.

In the back half of the year I put together that collection, and compiled and wrote story notes for the Kickstarter backer reward e-book of my Complete Stories (So Far). I also worked on the Rags and Bones anthology with Melissa Marr, wrote a novel outline (and sold it), and did a few book reviews.

I published a gonzo-historical novel, The Constantine Affliction, and two roleplaying game tie-in novels, and the latest Marla Mason novel — a record year for me in terms of book publications. I published an audiobook of Briarpatch via Audible’s ACX program, with the narration assistance of Dave Thompson, and put the wheels in motion to produce an audiobook of my first novel Rangergirl. I sold a few other books, ensuring that my name will be on books appearing through 2014 at least. Did a couple of screenings of the short film based on my story “Impossible Dreams.” It was a busy, cool year.

I read somewhere upwards of 100 books (my record keeping got spotty in the last few months). Favorites include Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series (beginning with Case Histories), Bullettime by Nick Mamatas, Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole (mostly for the standalone short novel at its heart), K.J. Parker’s Purple and Black, N0S4A2 by Joe Hill, the Milkweed trilogy by Ian Tregillis (beginning with Bitter Seeds), Suddenly, A Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret, The Writing Class by Jincy Willett, We Learn Nothing by Tim Krieder, Every Day by David Levithan, and The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman.

I didn’t keep track of all the stories I read, but I really liked a couple of K.J. Parker’s, especially “Let Maps to Others” and “One Little Room an Everywhere.”

Otherwise? I played a lot of video games (mostly Skyrim, though Dishonored and Arkham City were also good fun). I hung out with my kid (who is awesome — he’s five years old now! He’s in public school! We play roleplaying games and video games and card games and board games together!). I drank many beers. I went down to Los Angeles for a week to stay with my friends Jenn and Chris, where I wrote most of one of those aforementioned books. Our dear friend D came out and stayed with us for a while in the summer. I went to a truly great party at poet Dana Gioia’s place in Sonoma. I had a few dates (but not enough) with my wife. Hung out with some local friends pretty regularly, making this a more social year than I’ve had lately.

All in all? I wouldn’t mind if 2013 was more of the same.

2011 Was

I am a great fan of the symbolic. For whatever reason, the symbolism of New Year’s — an arbitrary moment chosen to begin anew — is profoundly powerful for me. A year is a good unit of time: short enough to be measurable and memorable, but long enough to get a sense of trends and developments. It’s a time to make course-corrections, and to see if my life is where I’d like it to be — and, if not, to figure out what actions are within my power to bring my dream life into line with my real life. (Of course, there’s no fighting the external and the unexpected, and conversely, no use fretting over such things: I do my best these days to worry about things I can, loosely speaking, actually control. Or at least influence.) It’s also a time to celebrate achievements, assuming I had any.

So, as always, a look back at my past year, with a particular emphasis on writing stuff, because that’s where most of my energy goes.

I wrote about 370,000 words of fiction and non-fiction (that doesn’t count blog posts, e-mails, or the thousands of words I write monthly at my day job — just books, stories, articles, reviews, etc.).

Most of those words went toward novels. I completed a pseudonymous work-for-hire novel in the spring; wrote the entirety of my roleplaying game tie-in City of the Fallen Sky over the summer; completed my new Marla Mason novel Grim Tides this fall; and have written about 50,000 words of another pseudonymous book this winter (though this one is original, not a tie-in or work-for-hire). I didn’t quite manage to write four entire novels this year, but it was a near thing. I also did revisions and copyedits and so on for various novels written previously, including Venom In Her Veins and Briarpatch.

I wrote some short stories which I subsequently sold: “The Carved Forest” (forthcoming in an anthology); “We Go Back” (an original commissioned by Escape Pod); “The Secret Beach” (published in Fantasy Magazine); “Ill Met in Ulthar” (forthcoming in an anthology); and “A Fairy Tale of Oakland” (an audio original commissioned by Drabblecast.) With my wife Heather Shaw I co-wrote “The Ghost of Christmas Possible” (audio original commissioned by Podcastle.) I also wrote “The Haunted Mech Suit,” which isn’t sold yet, but is out on submission.

I sold other books, too, most notably an anthology called Rags and Bones, co-edited with the marvelous Melissa Marr, which should be in bookstores in 2013. I also sold audio rights to my self-published novels Broken Mirrors and Bone Shop to Audible, which is awesome — especially since they commissioned original covers by Daniel Dos Santos! Also sold a couple of those work-for-hire books. Maybe my best year ever in terms of books sold. (I tell you, my career has really taken off ever since it crashed and burned after I got dumped by Random House. I’ve been really busy since I became a failure.)

I published a few things this year. The big one was my novel Briarpatch, which has been very well-received critically, to my great pleasure. (The book means a lot to me.) In addition to the stories mentioned above, I also published “A Void Wrapped in a Smile” in Basement Stories; “Antiquities and Tangibles” in Subterranean; “The Alphabet Quartet” (suite of 26 flash stories in collaboration with Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg van Eekhout) in Daily Science Fiction, published one per week from January – June 2011; “Hell’s Lottery” in Bull Spec; “Little Better than a Beast” in Those Who Fight Monsters; “Shark’s Teeth” in Daily Science Fiction; and “Our Stars, Our Selves” in Welcome to Bordertown (that was kind of a dream come true, as I loved the Bordertown series as a teen). My poem “Lion Heart” appeared at Apex magazine — the first poem I’ve published in ages.

A bunch of my stories were reprinted (or rather published in audio form) at assorted podcasts — “Terrible Ones,” “On a Blade of Grass,” “Hart and Boot”, “From Around Here”… others I’m forgetting, too, I suspect. Podcasts have become a huge part of my career, and many of them reach audiences larger than those of the major genre magazines. The future is an odd and wonderful place. I sold some print reprints, too, though not as many.

Remarkably, there were even developments at my day job (I’m senior editor at A Certain Magazine). I wrote a few book reviews, after a couple of years of not reading much SF/Fantasy at all. I conducted a couple of interviews for A Certain Magazine, solo, which I’d never done before — I sat down with Nick Mamatas, and with Sarah Pinborough. (You’ll be able to read both interviews next year.)

I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund my Marla Mason novel Grim Tides, with a goal of raising $6,000. I raised over $11,000. My fans are the greatest people in the world.

I got into self-publishing some more, putting up a bunch of single stories for sale in various e-book formats, mostly. Thanks to Jenn Reese of Tiger Bright Studios for doing a bunch of awesome e-book covers for me. Keep her in mind for your cover designing needs; she rocks. At my agent’s prompting, I looked into the ACX audiobook exchange, where authors can connect with producers and narrators to create audiobooks, and we made a deal with the amazing Mary Robinette Kowal to narrate an audiobook of my debut novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl. With luck, it’ll be available next year.

I got to see the first film adaptation of my work, a short film by Israeli director Shir Comay, based on my story “Impossible Dreams” (it’s fantastic). I optioned my short story “Morris and the Machine” to an indie filmmaker. My beloved producer and friend Anne Rodman renewed her option on the Marla Mason series (and those wheels are still turning, though Hollywood is a strange and vast place full of dangers, so I expect nothing).

Okay, okay, non-writing things!

My three-year-old became a four-year-old. Fatherhood continues to be pretty awesome. His glaucoma is under control — and he’s old enough now that he doesn’t have to be anesthetized in order to have his eye pressures checked, which is huge and good. He got stitches for the first time, after getting a cut over his eye. (He’s precocious; I was seven years old before I got stitches.) The kid swam with dolphins! He learned to count to 100! He can spell his name! He is generally fantastic. Such a great kid. One of the best parts of my life.

My wife started working full-time at A Certain Magazine (as a bookkeeper, mostly, though like everyone there, she does various things). Having her at my workplace is awesome, and our financial terror has gone from constant to intermittent (mostly around quarterly tax payment time), which is a nice change.

I did a bit of traveling. I went with my wife and kid to Southern California, as I was invited to be on a panel at the Literary Orange festival at UC Irvine. (The opportunity to take the boy to Disneyland, accompanied by our dear friend Jenn, may also have been a factor in our decision to make the trip.) I went to Worldcon in Reno, and later to the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, both with my wife and kid. I got to meet a few of my editors (James Sutter and Fleetwood Robbins and Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi) in person, which was great.

I took a week-long family vacation to the Big Island of Hawai’i (though it was partly a research trip for Grim Tides), and it was marvelous, except for my kid’s ear infection and my wife’s strep throat…. Other fun things that involved leaving my house: the Solano Stroll (my kid loves a street fair); the Eat Real Festival (my favorite annual excuse to wander around eating everything that looks yummy); reading at the LitCrawl portion of LitQuake; doing a talk about self-publishing and crowdfunding for a college class; a couple of memorable special occasion dinners with my adorable wife.

I sure like video games. I started the year playing a ton of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and the end of the year playing lots of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s pretty much the perfect series for my tastes as a gamer. Portal 2 was also super fun.

I got seriously into making popsicles over the summer. Both boozy popsicles and non-boozy. My chocolate popsicles are awesome. This is not arrogance; this is merely fact.

I read around 175 books (that’s approximate — I lost my list of books read when my computer hard drive dramatically died. Didn’t have a backup of that file for some reason, so I’m reconstructing from my library account history, etc.) That sounds like a lot, but it includes a ton of comic collections/graphic novels, which I read fast, and more re-reads than usual…. I had some nostalgia for old favorite books this year, and dipped back into some Stephen King and Terry Pratchett favorites.

All in all: a pretty great year. Too much work, and not enough play, but I’ll keep adjusting the ratios.

Lately, my kid has been talking a lot about what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s asked me what I wanted to be when I was a kid, and I told him: a writer. Which is what I am, despite taking a few knocks along the way. I really am living my dream life. Oh, there are bad particulars — I’ve had some unpleasant experiences this year in the publishing business (some at least partly my fault, some the fault of others), and there have been illnesses I could have done without, and certainly a fair share of simply bad days — but the overall arc of my life is moving in a good direction. My usual wish at the beginning of a new year is a line from that old Counting Crows song: “Maybe this year will be better than the last.” But this time, I’d be happy if this year is merely as good as the last.