Because The World Needs One More Year-End Blog Post

Overall, I'd say this was a very good year. For those of you who have been with me for awhile now, you know what I mean. For those who are new to my ramblings, basically something done on a lark scored me a book deal. I said it before and I'll no doubt say it again -- it's one of those ironies of the publishing industry that after trying to sell four novels, a publisher approaches me about doing a book. So yes, I've been very fortunate. But I also realize I didn't do it all alone. A lot of people helped spread the word of Hint Fiction (even if it was negative), and I am indebted to each and every one of you.

Besides that, I launched my sf action novella The Silver Ring online as an experiment. And the experiment was semi-successful, I guess (the site is linked to enough places that it's getting hits every day). I wasn't really sure what I was expecting. But I'm not done with it yet. In the next month or so there will be some changes coming, all of which I will share here first.

What do I have to look forward to in the new year? First and foremost, the anthology will be published -- in November, it's looking. Yeah, a long ways off, but still. I haven't been writing much short fiction lately, trying to concentrate solely on a new novel (not to mention putting the final touches on the anthology; I don't envy editors who have to put 20 or 30 stories in order; finding the right order for the 125 stories in this anthology nearly drove me insane). But I do have a few stories forthcoming in some great publications that I'm looking forward to:

A hint fiction piece in The Los Angeles Review; an almost hint fiction piece in the premiere issue of Sententia; flash pieces from Monkeybicycle (an anti superhero story) and PANK (which was a runner-up for their first 1,001 Awesome Words Contest); and a ghost story from Postscripts.

Jess had asked me awhile back on how I choose publications to submit to, and while I don't know if she even reads this blog anymore, here's the simple answer: I submit to publications I really like and respect. I will admit (abashedly) that I used to submit to just about any publication (reviewing their guidelines first, of course), but now I make sure I'm familiar with the stuff that's published there, reading at least an issue or (if online) a couple of the stories. That's very important. This way you're not wasting everybody's time submitting a story that's not at all right. After that, it's always nice to submit to markets that pay something, even if it's a token payment. On the flip side, it's also nice to know that that particular publication is actually read. One of the big debates nowadays is the whole print versus online, and I have to say that while print is always nice, it can also be limiting. After all, as writers we strive to be read, and being published in a journal with only two or three hundred copies limits the amount of potential readers. Then again, just because a story is published online doesn't mean it will be read either, so there's that to take into account as well. And of course Duotrope is a great place to find new markets; looking at the What's New page gives you a great idea about response times, and I find myself submitting to those markets with more reasonable response times than those with insanely long response times.

I used to read a lot. My job at the time allowed me the added bonus of extra time to read. My job now ... not so much. So I don't read nearly as much as I'd like to, but I still read some. Last year I only managed to read 50 books. This year the number is, again, 50. Except that I'm halfway through Under the Dome, which I'm really enjoying so far, though from what I hear it, like most of King's work, peters out in the end. Plus, what exactly constitutes a book? Does a single 20-page comic book count as a book? What about a 15-page chapbook? What about a fiction journal or magazine (maybe I should start keeping track of those next year)? If that's the case, my year-end number would be higher, but right now I'm counting just regular novels and short story collections and graphic novels and audio books (I guess I should also count books by author friends read in manuscript form, but am not).

Anyway, for the past two years I've been tracking what I read. I'm on Goodreads, which is nice, but I also write down every book I read and highlight the ones I really liked (i.e., the ones I would, if given the time and chance, read again). Last year I made a startling discovery: very few of the books I'd read were by women. This was not something done deliberately, of course; it just happened, and I made it a point this year to spread out my reading.

So here are my favorite reads from this past year. They are not a "best of" list by any extent. Just books that I really enjoyed and would recommend to anyone. They are listed in the order in which they were read ... though, looking at the list now, my top two favorites were Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (amazing, amazing novel) and Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower (amazing, amazing short story collection). Here ya go:

  • THE KEEP by Jennifer Egan
  • THE LATHE OF HEAVEN by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • THE CRIME WRITER by Gregg Hurwitz
  • THE GIVEN DAY by Dennis Lehane
  • THE INNOCENT by Harlan Coben
  • LOWBOY by John Wray
  • THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  • THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN by Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove
  • LIGHT BOXES by Shane Jones
  • BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett

And if I were going to add chapbooks to the list (I might as well), I also really liked The Collectors by Matt Bell. This particular piece is long out of print, but you can view it here for free (which is how I read it, actually).

One quick note about my list: notice how almost all of them fall into different genres. I find it's important, especially as a writer, to branch out in your reading. Just the other week I had lunch with an author friend and it was mentioned how many horror writers seem to only read horror and nothing else. This is true, just as it's true with mystery writers or romance writers or literary writers. Obviously, writing in a certain genre means we should know what's being published in that genre, but it's also beneficial to dip into other genres. Believe it or not, there are gems everywhere; you just need to find them.

Which brings me to my last request of the year (and, I guess, decade) -- as we're starting a new year and I'll be looking for new books to read, what was your favorite book you read this past year?