Friday, January 13, 2012

2011: My year in rear-view

Every January 1, I usually work up a little list of the things I accomplished, writing-wise, in the previous year. As you can tell, I'm a bit late. I have a good reason: I've been too busy writing. No matter how busy we all get, though, it's always good to stop, take a breath, look back, and see how far we've traveled over the past twelve months--if for no other reason than to make sure our trunks haven't sprung open and our luggage isn't strewn all over the highway. So, a mere two weeks delinquent, here it is: my 2011 in rear-view, a list of some stuff I did.

1. Finished my first novel, Taft 2012. It's been getting decent reviews so far, and the advance interest from the press, fellow writers, and my mom has been overwhelming. And the best part? The book doesn't actually come out until next week--so I get to trumpet its publication again on my list for 2012. Way to milk it, right?

2. Saw the publication of my first book, The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: big whoop. A Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in? Puh-lease. But here's the deal: For being a licensed Disney tie-in and all that, the book was very fun to write. I was given a lot of creative leeway. It helped me pay some bills and get my foot in a really worthwhile door (that door being Quirk Books; see above and below). And I love those dark, weird, silly, fantastical Pirates movies--yes, even the last two--so it's not like I was compromising my integrity and writing an Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel book or something. The bottom line, though, is this: It's a book. With my name on the cover. On the shelves of every bookstore in America. Without me smuggling it in and clandestinely filing it there.

3. Signed a contract with Quirk Books for three more novels. The project is still top-secret (okay, more like mid-secret), so I can't divulge all the details yet. But I will say this: They're the first three books in a kids' horror series, and they're set loosely within the mythos of one of my favorite authors of all time. (Okay, so I pretty much just gave it all away right there.)

4. Got an agent. And not just any agent: Jennifer Jackson, Vice President of Donald Maass Literary Agency, who also represents a slew of great science fiction and fantasy authors--including a handful of my favorite writers working today. I'm not worthy! But with a little luck and a lot more hard work (not mention Jennifer's kind and expert guidance), maybe I eventually will be.

5. Became the nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld Magazine. Clarkesworld, hands-down, is my favorite publisher of SF/fantasy short stories--and it's got the awards to prove just how many readers share that opinion. But the magazine's nonfiction has always been fantastic as well, providing a much-needed thoughtfulness and depth when it comes to analysis of the genres. I feel incredibly honored to be part of the team.

6. Launched Loud, my monthly column on punk and metal for The A.V. Club. For five years now, I've gotten to review all kinds of stuff for The A.V. Club, and I'm eternally grateful to them for the ongoing opportunity. But to have my own little corner of the joint that I can stink up with my unholy love of hard, heavy, dark, weird, nasty, violent, uncompromising, beautifully ugly music? Heaven.

7. Appeared on my first convention panels. Even if you know me personally, you probably have no idea how terrified I am of public speaking. That's because I've successfully avoided it for so long, you've likely never had the misfortune of seeing me sweat, stammer, and shake in front of a live audience. I knew I needed to change that, though, especially if I'm going to be an author for a living. So after attending Worldcon in Reno this summer--taking careful note of what I liked and didn't like about convention panels--I returned to Denver and signed up for three panels at MileHiCon in October. And what do you know? I actually pulled it off without making a total doofus of myself. Partial, sure, but not total.

8. At long last, found a publisher for "Other Gray Things." Let me tell you a little story: In January of 2008, I resolved to start writing fiction. The first short story I completed was "Other Gray Things"--a science fiction tale set in a world where a mysterious, omnipresent hum has led to the outlawing of any audible frequency that clashes with it. Somehow, this very first serious short story I ever wrote snagged a semifinalist slot in the Writers of the Future contest. But that didn't include publication. So I started submitting it to various magazines. It was rejected. And rejected. And rejected. But every time it came back, it was accompanied by some great constructive criticism from an editor. So I kept revising it and sending it back out. In the meantime, the other stories I'd begun to write were getting published all over the place. I could have given up on "Other Gray Things." But since it was the first story I'd ever finished, I was determined to place it somewhere. Finally, Christopher Fletcher--the editor of the excellent SF magazine M-Brane--accepted it, and it was published in January of 2011. It was a great way to ring in the year. And now, one year later, it's a great way of driving home the point that, holy hell, did I have a crazy 2011.

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