The Year in Books 2017

Happy New Year, everybody! I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of 2017. Natural disasters and human disasters seemed to be the theme. Nevertheless we persisted; we made it to 2018! (except those who didn’t).

Before I get to my book statistics I’ll share a few writing highlights. I wrote at least three new stories and majorly revised several more.

Here is a screenshot of my submission stats from 2017.

I doubled my story submissions from 2016 and received nearly 6 times as many personal rejections. (Personal rejections are gold when you’re in the submission trenches.) This is a tangible reminder that I’m making progress.

My story Wandering Eye was published on the Lorelei Signal in January of last year. I recently sold another story that should be going live in the next few months. I’ll post a link here when it does.

Over the last year I’ve become a part of a critique group of local authors. We’ve been meeting once a month. The advice I’ve gotten from Marcia, Anika, Jennie, and Tim has been invaluable and my writing continues to improve. It’s also a great motivator to have something written in time for our meetings.

I’m still in touch with most of my classmates from Viable Paradise 2016 and connect with them nearly every day. It is an incredibly supportive community. They’ve been doing great over the last year too. Several have made pro sales, signed with agents, and attended incredible workshops. I’m thrilled and grateful for my little writing family.

I entered Podcastle’s Flash Fiction contest and made the top ten out of 200 stories. I think I ultimately placed 5th.

In June I attended 4th Street Fantasy, a very small local fantasy convention with such guests as Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear, John Chu, and Max Gladstone. It’s limited to only about 250 attendees and socializing is encouraged but not mandatory. Which suits me perfectly. It also attracts a lot of Viable Paradise graduates and ended up being a mini reunion for VP20, with 16 of our class of 24 in attendence.

In September I ran a meeting of MinSpec where we did Sherwood Smith’s 2-Page exercise. It was huge success and we’ll be doing it again this spring.

 

On to the books part of the Year in Books!

Every year since 2010 I’ve kept a running list of the books I’ve read over the course of the year. It functions sort of as a diary of my reading habits.

By the Numbers

Grand total: 103 books read

67 print

36 audiobooks

5 ebooks

52 comics and graphic novels (not including singles issues read month to month)

22 borrowed from the library

17 borrowed from friends

11 short story collections or novellas

Favorites!

Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire

Room – Emma Donoghue

The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett

O Human Star Volumes 1 and 2 – Blue Delliquanti

The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill

The Refrigerator Monologues – Catherynne M. Valente

Lots of favorites this year!

Favorite Author stats

Neil Gaiman 4

Gail Simone 3

David Mack 2

Charlie Jane Anders 1

Holly Black 2

Carrie Fisher 1

Seanan McGuire 2

Rainbow Rowell 1

John Scalzi 2

Terry Pratchett 2

George R.R. Martin 1

Marissa Meyer 1

Kelly Barnhill 1

Ursula Vernon 2

Catherynne M. Valente 1

Connie Willis 1

Nnedi Okorafor 2

So that was 2017 in books.

Here is the current state of of my to read shelves.

I hope that by next year the piles in front of the shelves will have been read. But that would mean I stopped adding to them and that is not as easy as it sounds.

 

A few other highlights from 2017.

I saw Hamilton in Chicago!

All the Hugo Award fiction categories were won by women!

Hidden Figures! Wonder Woman! Thor Ragnarok! The Last Jedi!

Brienne and Arya’s sparring match!

Black Panther and the Thirteenth Doctor to look forward to!

Extreme weirdness on tv in the form of Legion, American Gods, and Twin Peaks the Return.

The Big Sick! Ladybird! Master of None! The Good Place! Steven Universe!

The Women’s March! Trumpcare defeated! Roy Moore defeated! Resisters everywhere!

A Conventional Love Story

I rediscovered this little story while cleaning up my writing folders on my hard drive. I wrote it probably about five years ago in response to a forum challenge to write a love story in under 1,000 words. I like it more than I remembered. Enjoy!

 

A Conventional Love Story

 

I knew nothing about her; not her name, not where she was from, or if she was seeing anyone. All I knew was that the woman of my dreams was dressed as Hogwarts, and she was getting away.

It was love at first sight when I spotted her on stage between a Dark Phoenix and an Optimus Prime. Hers was certainly not the sexiest costume in the lineup. That title belonged to a scantily clad interpretation of a Ghostbuster. Nor was hers the largest, that went to a team of five people dressed as the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro. Nevertheless, from the moment she stepped onto the stage to the moment she finished her allotted strut, the Quidditch pitch bobbing alluringly on her left hip, I could not take my eyes off of her.

Despite getting a standing ovation from the crowd, to which she gave an awkward curtsy, she did not place in the top five. While I thought the judges were crazy to exclude her, I was happy to see it. The sooner she was out of the contest, the sooner I could meet her. As the contestants were eliminated one by one, they filed off the stage and into the audience. The more impressive the costume, the more people swarmed to have their pictures taken with it. I dodged and weaved my way from the back of the room to the area next to the stage.

It took some time; the costume contest is one of the most popular events and the room was packed. Fortunately, I knew that with her bulky costume she could not move any faster than I could. I forced my way through a crowd of people I thought were waiting to be photographed with her, only to find a breakdancing Ewok in the middle. Irritating little showboaters!

“Where did Hogwarts go?” I shouted over the din.

“I think she was going for the Joss Whedon panel,” a partially transformed Bruce Banner replied.

“Which room?”
He shrugged. I hurried as quickly as I could out the door. Back out in the hall, I asked everyone I saw if they knew the room number for the Whedon panel, finally getting it from a guy handing out promotional wrestling magnets. It took another fifteen minutes to make it through the throng of conventioneers to the proper room. Just my luck, the door was closed.

“Sorry, it’s full,” the con staffer said, sounding harassed as twenty other people were hovering by the door.

“I don’t want to get in, I just want to know if you saw a girl dressed as a castle go inside.” The staffer looked at me like I was a loon, and turned to rebuff the next person trying to get by him.

“Damnit!” I sighed.

“I know,” groaned a girl in a Captain Hammer tee. “I got in line two hours ahead of time, and I still didn’t get in,” she griped.

Two hours? That meant my would-be paramour hadn’t gotten in either!

“Did you see a girl in a Hogwarts costume?” I asked the disgruntled Whedonite.

“Is that what she was supposed to be? I thought she was Castle Greyskull.”

“Which way did she go?”

“Out to the floor.”

I took off sprinting, or as close to it as I could get when every square foot of space was taken up with people swinging swag-bags. I found myself back on the main floor, a football field-sized labyrinth full of vendors selling all the sci-fi/fantasy/comic book/gaming paraphernalia you could imagine.

Frantically, I took the route that was flowing the smoothest at the moment, praying she’d done the same. Finally, I spotted her headpiece through the sea of bodies between us. I could clearly see the unmistakable silhouette of the astronomy tower, perched on her head, complete with an action figure of Professor Dumbledore dangling from it.

“Hey!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, desperate to be heard over the cacophony.

“Hey! You with the turrets!”

For a moment she paused. I saw the action figure swing around, as her head turned. I leapt forward, my heart beating in my chest, only to barrel straight into a vampire covered in body glitter.

“No,” I moaned, as my unfortunate collision partner tried to help me off the floor. It was too late, by the time I regained my feet, there was no sign of her. I trudged to where I had last spotted her. All I found was a crumpled piece of cellophane, that had been a part of the Black Lake. I folded it neatly into a square and put it in my wallet.

I searched the con for the next two days. I never saw her again. But I’m not giving up. I will be back next year, and I’ll be damned if I won’t be the most accurate Platform Nine and three-quarters you have ever seen.

 

And here is a selfie I took with the Hogwarts miniature at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but I’m standing on an elevated ramp and the miniature is enormous, the room it’s kept in is about the size of a basketball court. I’ll admit, I may not have fallen in love when I saw it, but I definitely got chills.

One week to American Gods

I’ve made no secret that I’m a Neil Gaiman fan. I wrote once wrote a story about his toaster for heaven’s sake. So yeah, I’m excited about the American Gods show. I recently reread the novel and I’m curious about how they’re going to adapt certain parts to the screen. I have a lot of faith in Showrunner Bryan Fuller who has been responsible for some of my favorite, if mostly short-lived shows, such as Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, and Hanibal.

I found myself wondering if I could predict what the reactions to the show would be before it had actually aired.

Anticipated Fan Reactions to the American Gods Pilot

Bryan Fuller Fans: It is a perfect curio of masterly crafted artistry. Please share my petition to save it from cancellation and add Lee Pace to the cast for season two.

Most Neil Gaiman Fans: That was great. I can’t wait for the next episode.

Some Neil Gaiman Fans: It wasn’t exactly as I pictured it and I wish is was more like the book, but I can think of it as an alternate universe. Of course, I’ll keep watching because Mr. Nancy—oh my God!

Loudest Neil Gaiman Fans: COMPLETE CRAP! EVERYTHING IS WRONG! BURN STARZ TO THE GROUND!

Anti-Neil Gaiman Fans: It sucked but that was to be expected, he’s a hack. The book was totally derivative of—far superior books by Terry Pratchett/Lev Grossman/Mike Vasich/Tad Williams/Diana Wynne Jones—his own ideas from Sandman—this one short story I wrote in high school.

Game of Thrones Fans: This would never have been made without GOT paving the way. How many more days to July 16th?

Doctor Who Fans: Crossover??????

Outlander Fans: Needs more kilts

Deadwood Fans: Needs more cocksucker.

Average person flipping through channels: Masters of Sex has gotten weird.

 

 

I’ve been all of these people at some point, depending on the project.

Wandering Eye on the Lorelei Signal

You can now read my story Wandering Eye on the Lorelei Signal.

“The Lorelei Signal is a web-based magazine dedicated to featuring
3 dimensional/complex female characters in Fantasy stories.”

I am very proud to have one of my stories published there. There is also a lovely piece of original artwork to go with it. That is a first for me.

http://www.loreleisignal.com/WanderingEye.html

Also if you are so inclined there is a donation button at the bottom of the page. Any donations go to cover the operating cost of the magazine, and any money raised beyond that cost is paid out to the authors and artists.

Lots of photos plus a video.

This October I attended the Viable Paradise workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. It was incredible. I learned so much and bonded with my class of fellow authors. I feel like I could write thousands of words and not really capture the feel of it. So instead I’ll post some photos.

First is the class photo with the instructors. I love everyone in this picture. Except for Jamie. (He knows what he did.)

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Kind of cool fun fact, 19 of the 24 students this year were women. I am so proud to have been a part of this class. Pay attention to these names, you will be seeing them in magazines and bookstore shelves not too long from now.

In other news: Martha’s Vineyard is gorgeous. I did a terrible job capturing it. As shown here.

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My classmates Fred G. Yost and Karen Osborne did a much better job.

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See? So pretty! Also shockingly like Stars Hollow.

And here are a couple of mementos I came away with.

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That would be a pile of feedback for my submission novella.

Not shown: a newly written story, an idea for another, a mug, a tee shirt, and a green rubber snake.

So to wrap up I would 100% recommend Viable Paradise to all aspiring spec-fic writers.

 

And here is a video taken last month of me reading the beginning of my novella at Word Brew 2016 (while wearing my VP shirt).

 

 

I’m weird

I was going through my notes archive and found this weird little thing I wrote a few years ago. Enjoy!

 

How to Cook and Eat the Avengers

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So you’re thinking of invading Earth. I’m sure you’ve already got a detailed plan for how to defeat The Avengers, but have you thought of what to do with them next? With the proper preparation, each Avenger will yield a unique and memorable meal.

Iron Man:
Place live Avenger in a large stock pot of tepid water. Slowly increase temperature until struggling ceases. Do not be disturbed if you hear a noise akin to screaming, it’s merely his soul escaping his body and does not last long. If you are squeamish, get him intoxicated prior to cooking, he’s less likely to notice. Once fully cooked, break through exoskeleton and enjoy.

Captain America:
Season liberally with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Wrap in pastry dough and deep fry until golden brown. Serve immediately or freeze to eat later.

Black Widow:
Eat raw. This Avenger has a natural kick.

The Hulk:
If obtained when fully ripe (dark green) this Avenger will serve a large gathering. Roast on a spit for at least eight hours and carve. Meat will be tender and juicy. Do not cook if meat is pink, servings will be small and bitter.

Hawkeye:
Generally bland. Smoke or marinate to infuse with flavor. Best on sandwiches.

Thor:
Only for the daring of palate. Flavor is strong and like many Scandinavian cuisines, the aftertaste can be unpleasant. Pair with pungent cheese and amber ale.

Bon appétit!

The Year in Books: 2015

As I’ve done for the past five years, I kept a list of all the books I read in the past year. Each year the list has gotten longer.

Total Books Read: 102

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Of those:
46 print books
56 audiobooks

Of those:
24 graphic novels
8 ebooks
4 read for critique
16 borrowed from the library
13 short story collections or novellas
30 young adult
9 Middle Grade

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Favorite author numbers:

3 Neil Gaiman
3 Rainbow Rowell
2 George RR Martin
4 Holly Black
1 Jo Walton
1 Jonathan Carroll
1 Jim Butcher
1 Connie Willis

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Favorite Reads:
Eleanor and Park and Carry On both by Rainbow Rowell
The Darkest Part of the Forrest by Holly Black

Honorable Mentions:
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland For a Little While and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making both by Catherynne M Valente
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Martian by Andy Weir
Hold Me Closer Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone both by Lish McBride
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Ballroom Blitz by Veronica Schanoes

Lots of great books this year! I could add another fifteen or so honorable mentions, but I don’t want this post to go on forever. I didn’t even list any comics! Comics are the best!

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Book related highlights:

I did some writing. And am still query agents. It’s a long process. A story I wrote a while back was published in the MinnSpec anthology By Polaris Bright. And a Game of Thrones parody I wrote was published on McSweeney’s here.

I attended Wiscon and saw the Tiptree Award ceremony. I’ve already read one of the shared winners, My Real Children, which was wonderful. I’m really looking forward to reading the other, The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. I went to readings or panels with Alaya Dawn Johnson, Eleanor Arnason, Ellen Kushner, N.K Jemisin, and many many others. I came home with lots of new books and haven’t begun to dig into then yet. Chances are high a few of them will make it onto the next few years’ lists.

While the convention itself was pretty awesome, my favorite part of the trip was listening to the audiobook of the Martian with my sister and brother-in-law on the drive there and back. It’s just a super entertaining and suspenseful book and listening with a few people added to the experience as we speculated about how the hero going to get out of the current life-threatening jam. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m not sure it can top that.

I also attended Nerdcon Stories right here in Minneapolis. I got books signed by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater. And got to see many other authors speak including John Green, Maureen Johnson, John Scalzi, Stephanie Perkins, Patrick Rothfuss, Matt De LA Pena, Lev Grossman, and a zillion others. Other notable guests included Hank Green, Paul and Storm, and Dessa Darling. Of course, I brought back another pile of books.

My favorite part of this convention was the daily mainstage shows. Many of the guests got to make thoughtful or funny or both fifteen-minute speeches, and then there were games and deconstructionist puppet shows and mock debates. They’ve released a couple of the speeches and games on YouTube. I’m really hoping they’ll post the moment where the entire auditorium sang “Bye Bye Lil Sebastion” it was glorious.

This year I got addicted to the web series Nothing Much To Do, an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. And the sequel Lovely Little Losers, adapted from Love’s Labors Lost. Both can be found on their creator’s channel. They will soon be releasing an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it won’t be a continuation of this series. I will miss these characters. Beadick and Pedrazar forever!

The BBC adaptation of one of my favorite books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, was very good.

So that was the year in books! I’m currently reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke and The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. So how was everyone else’s 2015?

 

The Bat Signal: Gotham City’s Best Gossip

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I had a lot of fun writing this. 

BRUCE WAYNE: BILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY OR TROUBLED REPROBATE?

Like me, I’m sure you read Clark Kent’s profile of Bruce Wayne in last Sunday’s Planet, hoping for a few juicy tidbits about the world’s most famous orphan. Sadly what we got was a puff piece about his latest “charitable” project. Sure, sure, world hunger is terrible, blah, blah the needy, but what do really know about Wayne? For someone who has spent most of his life in the public eye, little is known about the reclusive billionaire.

Is the butler pulling the strings?
Who can forget the now iconic photo of a grieving, eight-year-old, Wayne at his parents’ funeral, with no one but a domestic servant by his side? But who is this butler? This Alfred Pennyworth? Was there truly no other person Thomas and Martha could trust with their only child—not to mention his considerable inheritance? A source close to the family believes Pennyworth wormed his way into the Wayne’s inner circle (blackmail anyone?) and made himself indispensable. After their untimely and tragic deaths (side note: some have cast doubt on the random thief myth), their friends were shocked to learn that the late couple had left their son in the care of an employee. The source confirms that Pennyworth, afraid of losing his cash cow, raised young Bruce in isolation, and fostered a sense of dependence in the traumatized boy. His Svengali-like influence over “Master Bruce” as he ironically calls him, lasts to this day. Now in his seventies, Pennyworth continues to play the role of the dedicated manservant, all the while making sure never to lose his grasp on his adult charge. Including meddling in his romances.

Why can’t he settle down?
Our boy Bruce is anything but a wallflower. Barely a day goes by without a picture surfacing of Brucie with the latest über model on his arm. But they’re as disposable as his income. One of the recent castoffs revealed he lavished her with attention in public, but in private he was distant and distracted. He often disappeared for hours at a time with no explanation. The man has commitment issues, that’s for sure. It’s hardly surprising considering that most of his long term relationships (as infrequent as they may be) have ended in tragedy.

Is Wayne cursed? Or is his sinister valet removing them from the picture? Or could it be Bruce’s true interests lie elsewhere?

What’s with the series of younger male “friends?”
I’m not the first to notice that Bruce Wayne prefers the company of young men. Everyone remembers his “ward” Dick Grayson. While it’s hard to fault Wayne for wanting help a fellow orphan-by-murder, there is something off about taking in a teenager less than a decade his junior to “raise” as a surrogate son. Grayson for his part, fled stately Wayne Manor the moment as he was of age, and has remained tightlipped about his former benefactor.

Less well known is that since Grayson flew the coop, Bruce has “mentored” one high school aged boy after another. What makes this fact more disturbing is that every last one is a physically fit brunette who could pass for Grayson’s doppelgänger. Another source who wishes to remain anonymous, claims Bruce dresses his new protégés in his erstwhile companion’s clothes. And call me cynical, but isn’t it a little too convenient that his lately discovered illegitimate son fits the profile perfectly? Let’s hope little Damien’s trust fund can cover the inevitable therapy bills.

How is Wayne Enterprises staying afloat?
Not all of the mysteries surrounding Gotham’s second most famous resident involve his personal life. While Wayne Enterprises perennially sits in the top five of Forbes’ most profitable corporations list, one has to wonder where the profits come from. A W.E. insider says the company develops hundreds of products a year that never make it to market. Wayne Tech’s computer division reportedly makes the likes of Apple and Google look like mom and pop operations. Yet the prototypes, once approved, are shelved for a future release date that never comes. Similar stories have leaked about their automotive and athletic equipment subsidiaries.

Theories abound. Everything from war profiteering to money laundering. Nobody actually suspects Bruce himself, he’s spotted in the corporate offices less often than a Borneo elephant. But surely his negligence left the company wide open to corruption.

So what is happening inside Wayne Manor?
Honestly, I don’t know. The truth could be wilder than anyone imagines. But there is no doubt Bruce Wayne is hiding something. During a recent segment on The View, body language expert Rita Voorhies said he displays all the mannerisms of a practiced liar. Until we get definitive answers, this humble blogger will have to be content studying the leaked photos from the canceled People’s sexiest man shoot. And contemplating the important questions. Where did he get all those scars? And how does he manage to make them look so hot?

 

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