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.