2020 In Review – Writing Ups and Downs

This is a bit belated, sorry about that.  It’s been kicking around in my drafts file.

2020 has come and gone, and frankly, none of us are going to miss it.  Between the Coronaclypse and all its attendant melt downs, the American election fiasco and Trump’s appalling conduct, wildfires, floods, murder hornets and everything else, I’m just as happy to be done with the whole thing.

But I figured I’d take stock of how the writing career has gone.

On the Positive Side, Seven New Ebooks

  • Bear Cavalry, A True (Not!) History of the Icelandic Bears – alternate history novel told as a Morgan Spurlock documentary.
  • Lexx Unauthorized, Series 2 – The Light at the End of the Universe
  • The Fall of Atlantis – a quartet of alternate history/speculative novellettes
  • There Are No Doors in Dark Places, a collection of horror stories
  • Lexx Unauthorized, Series 3 – It’s Hot and it’s Cold
  • What Devours Always Hunger, a collection of horror stories.
  • The New Doctor a media based alternate history novel, uploaded to Wattpad.

Along the way, I wrote a film script – Demon Hotel, commissioned by my friend Dean Naday; wrote a Kaiju novel – Yongary vs Pulgasari; wrote a dozen or so new stories both for Wild Hunt Press and for my own collections, did major rewrites and editing on at least as many of the existing short stories of my collections, went through the editing process for The Luck, for Five Rivers Publishing, and for my adventure novel, Princess of Asylum.  On top of that I worked on a lot of interim projects, notably Starlost, my Retroverse novel, this blog, etc.

Promotional:  I gave a workshop on Copyright and Publishing Contracts for the Brandon Public Library System. Did an online panel on Fan Created Works for the San Diego Who Con. The highlight, was the World Fantasy Convention, held online, where I did a Reading all to myself (people showed up!), and two panels – participated in Alternate History (with the legendary Charlaine Harris), and moderated a panel on Law and Fantasy (featuring the legendary David Drake).  I also revised my marketing, grouping  books into duos and trilogies, and uploaded both these books and the existing ones onto a new platform for me – Draft2Digital.

I entered two of my unpublished novels, Princess of Asylum and The Luck in the Booklife Contest.  They both scored highly, with the Luck at 8.0 and Princess at 9.25, and received excellent reviews. Princess made the quarterfinals and then the semifinals. I also submitted another unpublished novel to a horror contest with an Imprint at Tor Books, and yet another novel, Bear Cavalry to a contest for self-published fantasy works.

All told, I probably wrote over a quarter million words, and stringently edited twice that. Self published a hell of a lot, and put a lot of work into upcoming or developing projects.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the quality of the work and the sheer amount of it, both published and unpublished. Ironically, some of this productivity is due to the Coronaclypse.  The crisis basically cut my regular job in half and left me sequestered at home, so lot’s of extra free time to write.

On the Downside, Pitching Into the Void

The biggest setback in my nonexistent writing career was Five Rivers Publishing closing in May. This meant that my novel, The Mermaid’s Tale was now officially out of print. Even more disastrously, my second contracted novel, The Luck, due to publish August 1, 2020, was torpedoed.

Pow! Pow! Take that! Five Rivers was a very highly respected small press publisher. Not one of the majors, not even by Canadian standards. But it was well known and well thought of, they’d represented a great many fantastic authors, including Dave Duncan, Candas Jane Dorsey, Joe Mahoney and others, their books had received awards and shortlists. Getting published by Five Rivers had jumpstarted my moribund nonexistent writing career, and actually put me on the map in a way that self-publishing didn’t. You just get more respect and attention through a real publisher than if you’re doing it yourself.  Having the Mermaid’s Tale out had inspired me to self-publish some of my non-commercial work. This year, I was committed to working at a major marketing push for the release of the Luck – blog tours, book launches, podcasts, I was a lot more experienced and comfortable and prepared to hustle my ass off.

So losing Five Rivers was quite a blow. Sadly, the last few years have been brutal for the Canadian genre press. We’ve lost several publishers in the last few years, some for internal reasons, others through ill treatment by the marketplace.

For what it was worth, the rights to both novels – The Luck and the Mermaid’s Tale reverted back to me. And as a small bonus, for technical reasons, the Mermaid’s Tale remains in print, with me, as an audiobook.

For all the work that went into this year, there was tangibly little reward – I’ve mentioned the Booklife Contest – Well, Princess washed out and didn’t make the finals, the Luck didn’t even make the quarterfinals despite a good score. Bloodsucker washed out at Tor.  I pitched Princess to about thirty agents, and the Luck to ten, all of them washed out.  And while I got a lot of books up and into the world, not a lot of sales, a few reviews, not a lot of attention.

Which is why I refer to this as a nonexistent career.  A lot of work, not a lot of breakthrough anywhere, some near misses, some lost ground.

Still, it is what it is.