Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

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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January 2017 by the Numbers

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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 in January.

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 putting together a blog post about why I made this particular challenge, and why the same challenge might not work for anyone else.

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.)

The first week of January I wrote 3 out of 5 days, and managed 2,198 new words.

The second week of January I did no writing at all.

The third week of January I wrote 3 out of 5 days and managed 4,833.

The fourth week of January I wrote 5 out of 5 days and managed 5,225, words.

In the three days of January 29-31 I only wrote 1 day, but wrote 2,580 words.

Each month’s goal is roughly 20,000 words (1,000/day x 5 days/week). In January I wrote 14,836 words. In the process, I completed a previously stalled short story and wrote a complete second story.

I’m feeling pretty good about those numbers, given how little I wrote in the second half of 2016.

EDITING

Where I’ve dropped the ball in January is in editing/rewriting. I have three stories that I received really valuable feedback on from beta-readers/critiquers in Nov/Dec., and those stories are still waiting to be reworked with that feedback in mind. (One of them, the feedback was actually part of a rejection letter. Not a “revise and resubmit,” but still very personalized feedback from  very busy editor!).  And of course, I now have the two stories written in January that will need editing/revising. First drafts are great, but they’re rarely ready to send out.

I clearly need to find a balance between the writing time and the editing time. I’m going to work harder on that in February, as I continue to work on that writing goal mentioned above.

SUBMISSIONS

I have three stories out on submission right now, one of them something I co-wrote with a more well-known author. I could have more, but I was as bad about submitting stuff in the second half of 2016 as I was about writing or editing. Hey, at least I’m consistent.

SALES

A few days ago, the ToC for KEPLER’S COWBOYS, edited by David Lee Summers and Steve B. Howell for Hadrosaur Productions, was announced. I’m very glad to be able to say that my story “Chasing May” is included, alongside work by authors like David L. Drake, Jaleta Clegg, Gene Mederos and others. You can preorder the Kindle version here, or the print and other ebook versions here. I loved Summers and Howell’s previous anthology, A KEPLER’S DOZEN, and anticipate this new anthology will be just as fun.

 

And that’s about it for January on the writing front. A separate post about January’s reading will follow tomorrow.

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Galactic Games

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I made my first professional rate short story sale last year, and the anthology it appears in is now out in print and ebook forms. The anthology is GALACTIC GAMES, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and published by Baen. The theme is “science fiction sports stories,” including both currently real sports adapted to SF settings as well as completely new sports invented by the authors. The author line-up includes luminaries like George RR Martin, Seanan McGuire, Robert Silverberg, Todd McCafferey, Mercedes Lackey, Beth Cato … and little ol’ me.

Galactic-Games-cover-lg

My story, “Stress Cracks,” is about a young star athlete, the “face of his sport,” whose family history threatens to overshadow his athletic accomplishments. The sport he’s the face of? Downhill Figure Skating. (Picture standard figure-skating combined with freestyle skiing, on icy (instead of snowy) mountains.)

You can buy the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or in an actual bookstore –either one of the chains or support your local independent store by asking them to order it!

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Shipping This Week

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One Thousand Words For War CoverAccording to Amazon, ONE THOUSAND WORDS FOR WAR ships this week. This wonderful anthology includes my short story “Threshold.” In fact, my story is mentioned in the back cover copy / product description:

Imaginative and original, One Thousand Words for War explores in various fantastic settings the different types of conflict—from powerful internal and external conflicts with the potential to destroy the main character’s world to the peace that comes from accepting change. Whether it’s a transgendered girl standing up to bullies or a child soldier trying to save his fellows from war, this collection shows the powerful ways teens can overcome and embrace extraordinary circumstances.

You can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or get your local independent bookstore to order it for you!

 

 

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“Yeti”

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My very-short story (it might even be flash fiction) “Yeti” is out today in the anthology ROBBED OF SLEEP, VOLUME 4.  It was a fun, moody bit of Gothic-Pulp to write. Check it out at the link.  Here’s the cover:

 

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Donna Pedersen GoFundMe

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Donna Pedersen, my sister Lorraine’s close friend and coworker, has been fighting cancer for some time now. She’s been through 6 different chemotherapies and two rounds of radiation only to be told that there is nothing more they can do. Donna’s been offered a chance at a brand new therapy that insurance companies don’t cover, but it’s expensive and she needs help covering costs. I’m sharing her GoFundMe page in the hopes that my friends who can afford to will contribute, even just a few dollars, and in the hopes that those who can’t spare the money right now with boost the signal on this. Please help in one way or the other!

 

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Latest New Song

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While I’m plugging away on revamping this site and plugging away on writing more short stories, I finally managed to upload the third of the songs I’ve co-written and recorded to my Bandcamp page.

It’s called “Someday,” and it’s based a bit on the school experiences of at least two kids who are important to me (but who shall remain nameless for reasons). It’s about overcoming bullying and ostracizing and adversity, and being who you are, and all the fears that go along with that.

I wrote the words. Barry Mangione wrote the music and played guitars. Darrell long added some percussion and a bit of keys while he was producing the song.

It’s actually the first of the songs I co-wrote and recorded, although it’s the third to come to internet availability.

All proceeds will be donated to Reverse The Trend, a non-profit I’ve mentioned before. RTT brings anti-bullying and self-esteem programming to middle schools around the US.

I hope you’ll give the song a listen, and perhaps a purchase, at the link embedded in the song title above.

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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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New Song

Posted by admin under fundraisers, singers and musicians

I’ve co-written and recorded another song!

“Done” is  now available on my Bandcamp page.

Words by me, music and production by John Russo from the band Reverse Order.

These songs of mine never actually sell much, but any proceeds I do garner will be donated to John’s non-profit organization Reverse The Trend, which brings anti-bullying and self-esteem programming to schools around the country. Please check out their page if you’d like to book the program for your school or if you’d just like to donate to a worthy cause. You can also help them by turning your Amazon page into a SmileAmazon page and setting “Reverse The Trend” as your charity of choice. The great thing about that program is: you shop the way you normally do, and Amazon donates to your choice charity.

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I hope everyone is well and enjoying the December holidays as they roll across our calendar. Hard to believe 2015 is almost over. Hannukah has passed; Christmas and Solstice are almost here, and then it’s New Years. Kinda crazy.

I’ve had lots of work stuff going on, and have also been doing much writing and quite a bit of reading. I’m intending to do some year-end wrap-up posts here as a way of relaunching the site. I’ve been intending all year to revise the look of the site and start posting content again, but real life has been getting in the way.

This past Weds, one of my previously-published short stories, “Chasing Satellites” (from Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s Beyond The Sun anthology), was released in audio form on the StarShipSofa podcast. Narrator Rikki LaCoste did a fantastic job with the character voices, pacing and tension of the story; the producers did a fantastic job adding sound effects to enhance the story. I really love what they did, and I’m submitting another “reprint” to them soon. Check it out, on their website (direct link to the page for my story above) or find them on iTunes. Either way, it’s free. (Note: my story starts at about the 20 minute mark of the podcast. It’s preceded by a fascinating interview with Zoltan Istvan, and followed by a neat discussion of historical precedents for the Jedi Order.)

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