Category Archives: On Writing

It’s been a year: 2021 in review

2021 is in the books, and what a year it’s been, right?

*stares, dead-eyed, at wall for an undetermined period of time*

Anyhoo, let’s take a look at what happened this year, writing wise. I’ve had two stories published this year:

  • Practice on a pulsefish, published in Nature, is a story about fishing on Europa, space pirates, and dangerous shortcuts.

    I shook the pulsefish by the tail, the last drops of blood draining from its opened throat into the dark waters. Between the pulsing vibrations of the fish and the sway of my boat, it was hard to keep my knife straight as I sliced through its ghastly skin. My hands were fully numbed by the time I plopped a white fillet onto the cutting board, as if I was watching someone else do it. The meat shimmered with resonant electricity.
  • Selling One’s Self on a Multi-Dimensional Marketing Scheme, published in Daily Science Fiction, is a science fiction story inspired by the real-life fantasies an arcane industry sells in order to lure people in.

    “It’s not a pyramid scheme. It’s dimensional marketing. And if there was something funny about it, why did so many of us buy into it?”

There’s a bit of humor in both, but at their core they are dark stories. I love them and hope you enjoy them, too!

On the writing and submissions front, I’ve continued using Mario Party shorthand and logged 5 stars (stories drafted) and 34 coins (submissions):

This lags last year’s pace, which was a record for me. I was planning for that on the drafting side (revise your stories already, man!), but on the submissions side I definitely came up short. With that said, I’m close to finishing revisions on a pair of stories, and so that, along with Codex’s Weekend Warrior contest starting in a couple of weeks, gives me a nice springboard to hit a record number of submissions in 2022.

I’ve found some of the novelty in the hobbies I honed last year–namely cooking, baking, and drawing–wore off this year. But now that the pandemic has made clear it’s going to sleep on our collective couch as long as it likes, I’m looking forward to nurturing these skills further next year.

A couple of things I really enjoyed this year:

  • Axiom Verge 2 and Metroid Dread are both stellar, meditative experiences that are paced perfectly and have killer soundtracks.
  • All four seasons of Channel Zero are worth it, but especially No-End House. But especially The Dream Door.
  • Don’t Look Up, which just came out. Maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. *back to staring dead-eyed at wall*
  • Here’s a thread of 10 of my favorite stories published this year.

It’s been a year: 2020 in review

I’m not going to linger too much on a year that was, well–you lived it, you know. Below is my 2020, writing-wise.

The headline: I submitted more short fiction in 2020 than in every previous year combined. Since my first-ever submission to an NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest in 2013, I’ve had a fairly erratic submission history, including a handful of years (’13, ’14, ’18) where I only managed a single sub. While my focus has regularly been elsewhere throughout this time–novel work, work-work, etc–a lot of it came down to putting my stories aside right before a final revision, the last step before I’d consider them ready to go on sub.

Thinking back, forgoing that final revision (and effectively trunking the story) is a form of self-rejection. After all, if I don’t take the training wheels off a story, I’ll never know if it can ride unaided or not. This year I was much better about taking off the training wheels and giving my stories a good push.

Since I track my short fiction progress in Mario Party terms, here’s a look at my final tally of stars (stories drafted) & coins (submissions):

On the stories drafted side, 11 is the most stories I’ve ever drafted in a single year. Of those, two were short stories, and nine were flash. Eight of them were produced for Codex contests, which provide the much-needed deadlines this ex-journalist craves. On the submissions side, of the 11 different stories I submitted, five of them were first drafted this year. I submitted to 19 different markets, 13 of which I’d never submitted to before.

I was thrilled to have “Acquisition: Earth” published in Translunar Travelers Lounge. Additionally, I just sold a story to another incredible market, and I look forward to sharing that story, too!

Now, with all of the above said, did I meet the goals I set out at the beginning of the year? Not even close! But I didn’t set submission or publication goals, so I’m quite happy with how things turned out. Shoot moon, land stars.

Other highlights from a wretched year:

  • Like many people, I got into baking. Primarily bagels, which I made cheerfully and ceaselessly
  • I backpacked across the US, sailed the Caribbean, and fought pirate crocodiles in Donkey Kong Country—all from the comfort of my own home!
  • Inspired by countless Inktober posts, I started drawing again after a long hiatus. I’m gearing up to do Inktober in 2021
A salve for the soul

Wishing you a safe and joyful start to what hopefully will be a better year.

The Mario Party Method for Goal Tracking

A whiteboard with a star count of 7 and a coin count of 25
My stars and coins at the beginning of August.

Since last year, I’ve been using Mario Party-inspired shorthand for tracking some of my short fiction-related writing goals. I “collect” a star every time I write a story and a coin every time I submit a story, a simple technique that works for me because my gamer brain loves gamification. Read more about it on Medium.