FEBRUARY 2017 READINGS

A few days ago I posted about my writing accomplishments in February. Today’s post is about my reading.

I set myself several reading challenges each year, (and at some point I’ll write about this year’s unique challenges in an upcoming post. For now, here’s a look at the two I do every year, and how I’m progressing as the second month of the year has come to an end:

BOOKS

I set myself an annual goal over on Goodreads of 100 books. I track books the same way GR does, so self-published short stories in ebook format count, as do magazines if I read the entire issue and not just a story or two. January’s books read were:

  1. Black Knight: The Fall of Dane Whitman Volume 1, by Frank Tieri, Luca Pizzari and Kev Walker.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Marvel Comics’ Black Knight character, but this latest graphic novel collection felt like it just repeated story beats for the character we’ve already seen when he was an active member of The Avengers and Excalibur.
  2. Lightspeed Magazine #81 (February, 2017), edited by John Joseph Adams. Another fine selection of original and reprint SF and fantasy shorts. This month’s favorites for me were A. Merc Rustad’s “Later, Let’s Tear Up The Inner Sanctum,” Seanan McGuire’s “Lady Antheia’s Guide to Horticultural Warfare,” Brian Stableford’s “The Elixir of Youth,” and Ashok Banker’s “The Six-Gun Vixen and the Dead Coon Trashgang.”
  3. Full of Briars, by Seanan McGuire. Another novella in McGuire’s October Daye urban fantasy series, this one narrated by Quentin Sollys, Toby’s squire, who harbors a few secrets of his own. I loved that this was a quiet, “day in the life” type story, something rare in the Daye-verse, and I loved Quentin’s voice — totally his own but with hints of Toby’s influence.
  4. Ghost Girl in the Corner (A Shadowshaper novella), by Daniel Jose Older.  Focusing on a few of the supporting characters from the Shadowshaper novel, Older gives us a missing girl / dead girl pair of mysteries (with satisfactory “fair play” solutions) and further insight into how the Shadowshaper world works.
  5. Sinner Man, by Lawrence Block. Block’s first crime novel, long out of print since it was first published under a pseudonym, is classic noir Block: the main characters may be unlikeable, but you have to find out how it all comes out. (Reviewed Here on my Blog)
  6. Latin@ Rising: An Anthology of Latin@ Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Matthew David Goodwin.  An excellent collection of genre stories by writers of Latin descent or from Latin American countries, including Daniel Jose Older, Junot Diaz, and Sabrina Vourvoulias. (Reviewed Here on my Blog)
  7. Locke and Key Volume 2: Head Games, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. The second installment of the graphic novel series expands the mythology and ups the stakes for the characters in intriguing and disturbing ways.
  8. Undertow, by Jordan L. Hawk. This novella set in Hawk’s “Whyborne and Griffin” Lovecraftian universe shifts the focus to two supporting characters: secretary Maggie Parkhurst and Whyborne’s Ketoi twin sister. Still the same fun adventure, Lovecraftian worldbuilding and same-sex romance Hawk always expertly delivers.
  9. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman solidly and smoothly retells the Norse myths that influenced him, often with the voice one would expect to hear if the tale were being told around a campfire on a cold winter’s night.
  10. The Prisoner of Hell Gate, by Dana I. Wolff.  I picked this up because as a kid born in Queens NY and growing up just north, the Hell Gate bridge scared the hell out of me, and the idea of that part of the river combined with the story of Typhoid Mary into a kind of literary slasher-flick intrigued me. It didn’t really work for me though, despite some interesting character moments and the tying-in of other East River tragedies.

So: ten books read in February, and Goodreads tells me I’m still on track for the year.

SHORT STORIES

I also set myself a goal each year of reading 365 short stories: 1 per day, theoretically, although it doesn’t always work out quite that way. (366 in leap years, of course)

I didn’t quite hit the “one per day” goal in January, but I more than made up for it in February. here’s what I did read and where you can find them if you’re interested in reading them too (with some short notes for stories that really stood out to me). If no source is noted, the story is from the same magazine or book as the story(ies) that precede(s) it:

  1. “Optimistic People” by Chris Drangle, from One Story magazine for December 31, 2016. Two teens get caught up with a drifter when they rescue him from being buried alive. Really great character work.
  2. “We Blazed” by David Farland, from an ebook perk via a Kickstarter reward. Cool world-building mixes fantasy and SF.
  3. “Starship Day” by Ian R. MacLeod, from Lightspeed Magazine #31. Hearbreaking.
  4. “Later, Let’s Tear Up The Inner Sanctum” by A. Merc Rustad. Fantastic super-hero world-building.
  5. “Lady Antheia’s Guide To Horitcultural Warfare” by Seanan McGuire. Disturbing and Victorian and also a bit funny.
  6. “The Last Garden” by Jack Skillingstead
  7. “Probably Still The Chosen One” by Kelly Barnhill
  8. “The Memorial Page” by K.J. Bishop
  9. “Six-Gun Vixen and the Dead Coon Trashgang” by Ashok Banker. Violent and creative mix of SF, westerns and bible-thumping.
  10. “The Elixir of Youth” by Brian Stableford. A retelling of The Prodigal Son takes a very dark turn.
  11. “Taklamakan” by Bruce Sterling.
  12. “Mortensen’s Muse” by Orrin Grey, from Children of Lovecraft.
  13. “Oblivion Mode” by Laird Barron, from Children of Lovecraft.
  14. “The Devil’s Apprentice” by Premee Mohamed, from No Shit, There I Was!
  15. “Blush Response” by E. Catherine Tobler, from No Shit, There I Was! Loved the noir-ish world-building of this story of enforcers and “shine girls.”
  16.  “Full of Briars” by Seanan McGuire. The above-reviewed Quentin Sollys novella.
  17. “Ghost Girl in the Corner” by Daniel Jose Older. The above-reviewed Shadowshaper novella.
  18. “The Road to Nyer” by Kathleen Alcala, from Latin@ Rising: An Anthology of Latin@ Speculative Fiction. A wonderful, ethereal, haunting ghost story.
  19. “Code 51” by Pablo Brescia.
  20. “Uninformed” by Pedro Zagitt.
  21. “Circular Photography” by Pedro Zagitt. Amazing detail that stayed with me long after this bit of flash fiction was over.
  22. “Sin Embargo” by Sabrina Vourvoulias. Words, and translations, mean everything.
  23. “Accursed Lineage” by Daina Chaviano.
  24. “Coconauts in Space” by Adal.
  25. “Cowboy Medium” by Ana Castillo.
  26. “Flying Under the Texas Radar with Paco and Los Freetails” by Ernest Hogan. Music-infused prose.
  27. “Monstro” by Junot Diaz.
  28. “Room For Rent” by Richie Narvaez.
  29. “Artificial” by Edmundo Paz Soldan.
  30. “Through the Right Ventricle” by Steve Castro.
  31. “Two Unique Souls” by Steve Castro
  32. “Caridad” by Alex Hernandez
  33. “Difficult At Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado. Hearbreaking.
  34. “Death of a Businessman” by Giannina Braschi
  35. “Burial of the Sardine” by Giannina Braschi
  36. “Entanglements” by Carlos Hernandez
  37. “The Drain” by Alejandra Sanchez.
  38. “Red Feather and Bone” by Daniel Jose Older
  39. “A Science Fiction” by Carl Marcum
  40. “Scifi-Kill” by Carl Marcum
  41. “Traditions” by Marcos S. Gonsalez
  42. “An Oral History of the Next Battle of the Sexes” by Lucas Schaefer, from One Story magazine for February 21, 2017. Told entirely in quoted interviews from those who saw or were part of the title boxing match between a stellar woman boxer and an obvious male patsy.

So: forty-two short stories for February, which was more than one-per-day and which put me ahead of target (February 28th was the 59th day of the year).

FEBRUARY 2017 BY THE NUMBERS

I did a horrible job of posting to my own blog in 2016. My intent is to do better this year, by at the very least tracking my own writing and reading. Hopefully some of these posts will inspire folks to comment and chat a bit. Today’s post is basically a “by-the-numbers” accounting of my writing, editing, submitting and sales in February.

WRITING

At the end of 2016, I set myself a challenge for 2017: write at least 5 days a week, and write 1,000 words a day. I’m using a pretty simple spreadsheet to track “new words written” by day and week, with a column for notes (about projects worked on, totals for week/month, etc.). I’m tracking my writing week as Sunday to Saturday.

February started in the middle of a week, so:

February 1 – 4: I wrote on three days, and totaled 2,639 words.

The first full week of February: I wrote on five days, and totaled 4,696 words.

The second full week of February: I wrote on four days, and totaled 5,224 words.

The third full week of February: I wrote on six days, and totaled 5,358 words.

February 26 – 28: I wrote one day, and only 300 words.

I decided, after advice from various writer friends who weighed in, to give credit to some editing time as writing time: if I in fact, during edited, wrote new paragraphs into a story (regardless of how many words I may have deleted at the same time), then I count those paragraphs as writing time. For instance, the 300 words on February 28 were added to a story I was editing from the previous month.

Each month’s goal is roughly 20,000 words (1,000/day x 5 days/week). In February I wrote 18,217 words. That’s a few thousand up from January’s total, which is a good thing. In the process, I completed two stories that had stalled in 2016, wrote a brand new story from scratch, and started another brand new story (that I’m still working on in March).

EDITING

I did a much better job of working in editing time in February than I did in January. Part of that was because I allowed myself to count some of the editing time (when I found myself adding entirely new paragraphs or scenes) as writing time. And part of it was the realization that if I don’t go back and revise/edit my first drafts, then they’ll never be ready to send out to editors.

According to my notes, I did fairly heavy editing on two different stories, including the one I mentioned last month that had received detailed feedback as part of a rejection letter from a very busy editor.

SUBMISSIONS

On average, I had 6 stories out at any given time throughout the month of February, which was a step up from January. My goal by the end of March is to have 10 stories out making the rounds at any one time, reprints included. I have nine stories out on submission right now, including the two I spent part of February editing.

SALES

No sales made in February, although there were a few very nice personal rejection letters that make me think maybe I got close.

And that’s about it for February’s writing, editing, submissions and sales numbers.