Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

Archive for the ‘reading challenges’ Category

A couple of folks have asked, so I’m finally putting together my wrap-up post for 2016: what I wrote, what was published, and what I read.

 

WRITING

Not much to report on this front. 2016 was not my most consistent year for creating new content. I didn’t blog much, and I didn’t really track how much writing I was doing, other than knowing that there were a majority of months where I didn’t write or edit at all. I finished a couple of stories, including “Chasing May” which sold to the anthology Kepler’s Cowboys from Hadrosaur Productions. I sent out a few attempts at getting reprints sold, as well, but not much came of that. (Admittedly, I didn’t make the strongest effort I could possibly have made.)

 

PUBLISHING

2016 saw the release of three anthologies with my work included:

  • “Threshold” appeared in One Thousand Words For War from CBAY Books
  • “Stress Cracks” appeared in Galactic Games from Baen (My first professional-rate story sale!)
  • “Yeti” appeared in Robbed of Sleep, Volume 4 from Troy Blackford.

I also sold one story, the aforementioned “Chasing May,” which releases in just a few weeks from this writing.

 

READING

I set myself a variety of reading challenges in 2016. I managed to complete a few of them.

On Goodreads, I challenged myself to read 100 books. I read 105.

Here’s the breakdown of what I read:

  • Fiction: 97 books
    • 4 anthologies
      • 1 noir
      • 2 horror
      • 1 fantasy
    • 1 single-author collection (1 urban fantasy)
    • 17 graphic novels
      • 11 super-hero
      • 4 YA adventure
      • 1 YA comedy
      • 1 comic strip collection
    • 12 magazines (all issues of Lightspeed magazine)
    • 43 novels
      • 1 crime
      • 1 mystery
      • 1 noir
      • 1  Fantasy
      • 1 historical fiction
      • 1  historical fantasy
      • 2  historical romance
      • 3  historical urban fantasy
      • 3  alternate history
      • 3 horror
      • 1 literary
      • 4  pulp adventure
      • 2 science fiction
      • 13 urban fantasy
      • 1 YA urban fantasy
      • 1 YA science fiction
    • 8 novellas
      • 2 horror
      • 3 fantasy
      • 1 science fiction
      • 1 urban fantasy
      • 1 mystery
    • 1 picture book
    • 1 playscript
    • 10 short stories published as stand-alone ebooks
      • 4 urban fantasy
      • 3 mystery
      • 1 modern romance
      • 1 thriller
      • 1 historical fantasy
  • Non-Fiction: 8 books
    • 5 Memoir/biography
    • 2 History
    • 1 Writing Advice

Other Book Stats:

# of Authors/Editors: 86 (including graphic novel artists); 34 of these were female authors. (I didn’t do a good job of tracking other sub-group metrics, such as writers of color, queer writers, etc. I’m going to make a better effort this year.)

Shortest Book Read: 20 pages (Forbid the Sea by Seanan McGuire)

Longest Book Read: 496 (Feedback by Mira Grant)

(Interesting that the shortest and longest read were by the same author, albeit one under a pen-name.)

Total # of pages read: 24064

Average # of pages per book: 229

Format Summary:

  • 4 audiobooks
  • 28 ebooks (5 Nook, 23 Kindle)
  • 73 print
    • 17 hardcovers
    • 56 softcovers

 

On my Livejournal, I challenged myself to read 365 short stories (1 per day, basically), but I only managed 198 this year. I did not read as many anthologies or single-author collections cover-to-cover as I have in previous years.

Those 198 stories appeared in:

  • 5 Magazines
    • Asimov’s
    • Cemetary Dance
    • Daily Science Fiction
    • Disturbed Digest
    • Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
    • Lightspeed Magazine
    • One Story
    • One Teen Story
    • The Dark
    • The Strand
    • Three Slices
    • Unbound
  • 10 Anthologies
    • Candle in the Attic
    • Clockwork Phoenix 5
    • Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop
    • Dark and Dangerous Things III
    • Ghost in the Cogs
    • In Sunlight or in Shadow (Stories based on the paintings of Edward Hopper)
    • Robbed of Sleep Vol 4
    • Shattered Shields
  • 1 Single-Author Collection
    • Two Tales of the Iron Druid by Kevin Hearne
  • 8 Stand-alone (self-pubbed or publisher-pubbed in e-format)
    • Seanan McGuire (mostly from her website)
    • Jordan L. Hawk (email newsletter)
    • Lawrence Block (purchased in e-format via Amazon)

Those 198 stories were written by 166 different authors. 82 of those were women (again, didn’t do a good job of tracking any other author-identifying metrics). The work was published by 26 different editors, roughly (there were a few for whom I’m not sure who the editor was / who to credit).

 

So there you have it: my writing, publishing and reading, by the numbers, for 2016. (I was going to include other media consumed, like music, movies, and television, but I didn’t do as good of a job compiling those numbers in 2016. Oh well!)

 

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Yesterday I posted about my writing accomplishments in January. Today’s post is about my reading.

I set myself several reading challenges each year, and I’ll write about this year’s challenges in an upcoming post. (I also need to write up a post about how I did with my reading challenges for 2016, but first I have to find the word doc in which I crunched all those numbers…) For now, here’s a look at the two I do every year, and how I’m progressing:

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. Locke and Key Vol 1.: Welcome To Lovecraft, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve been meaning to read this series for a while, and finally got around to it because my nephew Brandon forced it into my hands during a December visit. I’m glad he did. Really enjoyed the set-up, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series soon.
  2. Battle Hill Bolero (Bone Street Rhumba #3) by Daniel Jose Older.  I love urban fantasy. If you love urban fantasy, and you’re not reading Older’s NYC-set story of ghosts, magic, and political machinations … well, why not? This third book closes out the Rhumba series, but I’m sure Older isn’t done with these characters or this world. And his writing has a musicality to it I can’t remember feeling with anything else I’ve read.
  3. Lily, by Michael Thomas Ford, with illustrations by Staven Andersen.  Classic fairy-tale tropes (Baba Yaga, hidden villages, a girl with a power she doesn’t understand, adults who try to suppress that power) come together in a modern setting. Some types of stories stay true no matter when they’re set, and Ford does a great job of balancing the fantastical with modern realities. And Andersen’s illustrations are disturbing and beautiful at the same time.
  4. Heaps of Pearls by Seanan McGuire. McGuire publishes a lot of stand-alone short stories from her various fictional series worlds on her website and her Patreon page. This one details how two secondary characters from the October Daye series, Patrick and Dianda, first met. It takes place prior to book one of the series but is probably best read after book 9. And what a meet-cute it is.
  5. Lightspeed Magazine #80 (January, 2017), edited by John Joseph Adams. I’m the proofreader for the Kindle ebook edition of Lightspeed, so it’s the one magazine I read front-to-back every month. The eight stories and one novella in each issue also account for 9 of the short stories I read every month. (See below for brief thoughts on those.)
  6. Lumberjanes Volume 5: Band Together, by Shannon Waters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Carolyn Nowak.  My good friends Kay Holt and Bart Leib introduced me to the Lumberjanes collected volumes on a visit to Boston last year, and I’ve eagerly awaited each new volume (since I don’t buy individual monthly comics anymore for a variety of reasons). I love the characters, the mystery, and the pacing. I have to admit that the change to the art in the run of issues collected here didn’t quite work for me: some of the characters barely looked like themselves for me. The art’s not bad, it just took some getting used to. But the story is a lot of fun.
  7. In Sea-Salt Tears by Seanan McGuire. Another short story in McGuire’s October Daye universe, this time telling a tale of romance and secrets involving everyone’s favorite sea-witch, The Luideag. I know, I know: “romance” and “the Luideag” are not words one expects to hear in the same sentence. Best read after book five of the October Daye series.
  8. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire. A new novella from McGuire that doesn’t seem to connect to any of her other existing series (although I can see it connecting to her novel Sparrow Hill Road in some ways). There’s some great world-building around a main character whose voice clicked with me right away, making me want to know more about her and the characters around her. A very satisfying “done in one” story.

So: eight books read in January, and Goodreads tells me that means I’m “on track” for my yearly goal.

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 here’s what I did read and where you can find them if you’re interested in reading them too:

The first 9 stories come from the January 2017 issue of Lightspeed Magazine. The first 8 are available to read for free on the magazine’s website, while the 9th story is only available as part of the ebook edition.

  1. Rate of Change by James S.A. Corey. A look at a future where brain/spinal transplants have become the norm — how does that affect our basic humanity.
  2. The Whole Crew Hates Me by Adam-Troy Castro. First person narrative about why the title of the story may be true. As soon as I finished reading it, I thought “man, this would make a fantastic acting monologue!” Great, is-he-paranoid-or-not voice.
  3. Tracker by Mary Rosenblum. Intriguing future (?) world where seeming gods control the weather, population, etc., and the title character is trapped in the middle of a power struggle.
  4. Nine-Tenths of the Law by Molly Tanzer. What happens when your husband is replaced by an alien intelligence just as you’re getting ready to divorce him. There’s a bit of comedy and tragedy mixed together here.
  5. Seven Salt Tears by Kat Howard. Another moving, very personal story from Howard, this one about how childhood stories involving the ocean impact a woman’s life.
  6. Daddy Long-Legs of the Evening by Jeffrey Ford. I read this one years ago, was completely creeped out by it, and am happy to say the reread was just as creepy. Urban legend about a boy whose brain is infested by a spider.
  7. The West Topeka Triangle by Jeremiah Tolbert. This one really brought back middle school memories, even though I didn’t grow up anywhere near Kansas nor in any urban setting. I love that lingering question as to whether anything supernatural is really happening, a tone Tolbert expertly keeps up throughout the story.
  8. Nine by Kima Jones. Fantasy trappings on a real-world setting: Tanner, Jessie and Flo run a motel for blacks moving west after the Civil War, but even the three proprietors are running from something that seems destined to catch up with them. Heart-breaking and full of love at the same time.
  9. Awakening by Judith Berman. Aleya wakes in a dungeon full of corpses, unsure how she got there. This story takes more twists than a D&D campaign, and each one is layered brilliantly onto the previous. It kept me guessing throughout as to how it would end.
  10. Heaps of Pearls by Seanan McGuire. (self-pubbed on the author’s website). As mentioned above, a really cute story about how Patrick and Dianda met. It has the feel of a screwball rom-com.
  11. Stage of Fools by Seanan McGuire. (self-pubbed on the author’s Patreon page) A story of Tybalt, the King of Cats, during his days in London, long before Toby Daye was even born. The first of three connected stories about how Tybalt re-opened his court after a long period of being alone.
  12. The Voice of Lions by Seanan McGuire (self-pubbed on the author’s Patreon page) The second connected story about Tybalt reopening his court in London, with some interesting political intrigue thrown in.
  13. Lunching with the Sphinxes by Richard Bowes. (from Grendelsong magazine, issue #2). A story set in Bowes’ Big Arena (NYC) future-history. Political intrigue from the perspective of a person who never thought she’d be a politician. I’d not read this when it first came out, but it seems a bit prescient in light of recent political events here in the US.
  14. Singing Wings by Keffy R.M. Kehrli. (from Fireside magazine #27). Aduaa is about to go through her species’ natural transformation, which means saying goodbye to those she’ll no longer be able to interact with. Kehrli really sucker-punches you with a depth of emotion we all recognize when life forces us to move on.
  15. Bones at the Door by John Wiswell (from Fireside magazine #27). Mandy starts discovering animal bones left at her front door, which leads to life changes she never could have expected. Eerie and disturbing.
  16. The Closest Thing To Animals by Sofia Samatar (from Fireside magazine #27). The narrator discloses a history of  her failing relationships in a city closed off from the rest of the world due to a plague that doesn’t kill. Great world-building, interesting story structure.
  17. The Acts of Hares by Seanan McGuire (self-pubbed on the author’s Patreon page). The third of the connected Tybalt stories, this one about how he finally finds that last reason to re-open his court to other cats, putting him further on the road to being the Tybalt we know in the current Toby Daye books.
  18. Beks and the Second Note by Bruce Arthurs. (from the December 2016 issue of Alfred Hitchcock magazine). Appearances are deceiving and not every case is as simple as it seems, as Detective Beks discovers investing a case of a good gun-carrying citizen killing a bank robber.
  19. Whatever It Takes by Lawrence Block (from the December 2016 issue of Alfred Hitchcock magazine)  An old, previously-unpublished Block tale of a group of cops trying to get a man to turn informant against a big time, almost-untouchable gangster, and the lengths to which they’ll go. The dialogue-heavy story structure makes it an even more fun read.
  20. Through This House by Seanan McGuire (from the anthology Home Improvement: Undead Edition). Another story set in McGuire’s Toby Daye universe, but in modern times compared to the others read this month. Toby, May, Quentin and Danny must figure out how to reopen the sealed fairie Knowe of Goldengreen before it kills them. It’s  bit of a haunted house adventure, with all the creeping shadows and jump-scares one would expect.
  21. In Sea-Salt Tears by Seanan McGuire (self-pubbed on the author’s website). As mentioned above, this one is set prior to the first novel of the Toby Daye series and doesn’t involve Toby herself. But it’s a great love story, slowly and carefully told.

So: 21 stories read in January, which means I’m 10 stories behind on my “read 365 stories this year” goal. But I suspect I’ll be catching up soon. One of my problems is I keep buying short story anthologies and then setting them aside for when I have time to read “the whole thing.” Which rarely seems to happen. So I’m making a sub-challenge for myself that each time I buy a new anthology, I will read at least one story the day I buy it. That might help with this a bit.

 

Clearly, between books and stories this has been a Seanan McGuire heavy month. She is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been working towards finally reading all of the stories connected to her main novel series. So there’ll be another batch of McGuire reviews in the wrap-up post for February’s reading as well.

 

 

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Welcome to 2016.

Okay, yes, I know, the year is already almost a week old. We’ve all gone back to our day jobs and school and all the other fun stuff we have to do when it’s not the holidays (and which some of us have to do even during the holidays). But it’s my first post of the year, so welcome New Year!

2015 Wrap-Up

In 2015, I lost track of exactly how many stories I sent out to various open calls and limited open calls and such. But I do know I sold 5 stories: four originals and one reprint. The reprint was “Chasing Satellites,” which is now in audio form on the great StarShipSofa podcast. The four originals should all be out in print and ebook in 2016:

  • “Stress Cracks” in Galactic Games from Baen in June (edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt)
  • “Threshold” in A Thousand Words For War from CBay Books in May (edited by Madeline Smoot and Hope Erica Schultz)
  • “And All Their Tearful Words Will Turn Back Into Steam” in Shroud Magazine when the next issue is released (edited and published by Tim Deal)
  • And the fourth story’s venue I haven’t yet received permission to announce yet.

I also know that of everything I submitted in 2015, I still have 6 submissions that I’m still awaiting responses on.

I also wrote and recorded one new song, “Done,” with John Russo of the band Reverse Order. It’s available on my Bandcamp page, and all proceeds will be donated to the non-profit organization Reverse The Trend, which provides anti-bullying and pro-self-esteem concert programming to schools around the country.

On the non-writing side, I read 100 books (this includes graphic novels, plays, and singly-published-as-ebooks short stories and novellas) and 366 short stories (some as part of the aforementioned 100 books, most not). I met my Goodreads Challenge (100 books) and finished the To Be Read Challenge hosted in 2015 by RoofbeamReader.

 

2016 Goals

My goal is usually to double the number of story sales from year to year. In 2013 I sold 3 stories, so the goal (which I missed) in 2014 was to sell 6 (I sold none). I carried that goal over to 2015 and sold 5, so my goal for 2016 is 10. Of course, I’d love to sell more than that, but the official goal is 10 stories sold during the 2016 calendar year (regardless of when they’ll be published).

I’ve got the aforementioned 6 stories still out, and I’m in the process of editing stuff I wrote first drafts of in December to get then out into the world. I’m also stepping up my writing regimen a bit (given the realities of day-jobbery and other life commitments).

 

My Goodreads reading goal remains 100 books this year. I’m working on my own To Be Read Challenge since RoofBeamReader is no longer hosting his, and that’s overlapping with a few other reading challenges I’m setting for myself. I’m considering posting about those here as well as on my Livejournal.  Likewise, I’m considering cross-posting book reviews here, as well as the short story reviews I post in my 365ShortStories community on LJ — but I’m still not sure about posting book and story reviews on what is supposed to be my author website, so I’d appreciate any thoughts you all may have about that.

Of course, I’m also aiming to be more active here. I’d like to start posting author, actor, singer and artist interviews again and host guest posts from folks. I need to start reaching out. For now, I’ll be posting about my writing and reading progress.

Here’s to a great 2016 for all of us!

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For the past two years, I’ve taken part in RoofBeam Reader’s “TBR Challenge.”

For 2011, I posted the list of titles I intended to read here on LJ. Of the 12 (plus 2 alternates), I managed to finish 4.
For 2012, I posted the list of titles I intended to read on my website. Of the 12 (plus 2 alternates), I managed to finish two.

For 2013, I’m attempting to participate again. You’ll see some of the same titles from previous years making it onto this list, but I also tried to pick some new titles. Maybe the third year is the charm, yes? I’m once again listing the rules and titles here and will mirror this post onto my livejournal.

In Adam’s own words:

The Goal To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).

Specifics:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list fo AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2012 or later (any book published in the year 2011 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates) Caveat: two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

My choices this year are:

1. The Valley of Fear, a Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
2. Call For The Dead, the first Smiley novel by John LeCarre
3. Grifter’s Game by Lawrence Block
4. Blind Fall by Christopher Rice
5. Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher
6. Without You by Anthony Rapp
7. Poisoning For Profit: The Mafia and Toxic Waste in America by Alan A. Block and Frank R. Scarpitti
8. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
9. Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours by Jim Butcher Completed January 7, 2013
10. Hounded, the first Atticus O’Sullivan book, by Kevin Hearne
11. Second Thoughts by Steve Berman
12. Storm of Swords, the 3rd “Song of Ice and Fire” book by George RR Martin

and the two alternates:

13. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
14. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCullers

Of course, I am under no requirement to read them in this precise order.  I’ll keep coming back and updating the list as I read the books, crossing them out and changing the color of the text. Four of these books will also help me with my on-going challenge to read more non-fiction.

This is the only official reading challenge I’m giving myself this year, seeing that I want to concentrate more on my own writing and also be a better contributor to my office book club. And of course, I’m proofreading the ebook editions of each issue of LIGHTSPEED magazine, which takes up some reading time each month.

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So the lovely and talented Adam, aka Roof Beam Reader is once again running his TO BE READ BOOK CHALLENGE. This year, I’m actually going to sign up properly so I have a chance at winning the prize he’s offering.

Adam’s rules for the TO BE READ (TBR) CHALLENGE are simple. In his own words:

The Goal
To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile, within 12 months

Specifics:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later (any book published in the year 2010 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

So here are my choices:

1. GRIFTER’S GAME by Lawrence Block
2. THE GATHERING STORM by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
3. THE DRAGON WAITING by John M. Ford
4. MAINSPRING by Jay Lake
5. BLIND FALL by Christopher Rice
6. A SECRET EDGE by Robin Reardon
7. THE FIFTH CHILD by Doris Lessing Finished February 12, 2012
8. ST. LUCY’S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES by Karen Russell
9. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
10. MYSTERY OF THE SEA by Bram Stoker
11. THE SUNNY SIDE by A.A. Milne
12. THE TIN DRUM by Gunter Grass – started in Feb 2012, finished in December 2012

and the alternates:

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
DANGEROUS LAUGHTER by Steven Millhauser

This is not necessarily the order I will read them in. But they are all books I’ve been meaning to read for more than a year. I think it’s also a nice mix of genres and formats, too.

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