I went back and forth for some time trying to figure out the best way to structure this post. (Should I go month by month, the way I’ve seen some artists do in talking about what they’ve created/learned in the past year? Should I give a recap list of everything that was published this year, along with my thoughts about each piece? Should I separate things into categories, with publishing in one place and writing in another?) In the end, I decided to use a tactic that works well enough in my writing — namely, to just jump in and see where I wound up.
Which means this will probably be long.
(Oh, hey, you’re still here! Cool.)
Overall, this was one of my best years in terms of publishing. My first novel, By Sword and Star, was released from Anthropomorphic Dreams Publishing, after months and years when I was unsure if it would be published at all, or if I would wind up just putting it online for free. There were good and bad parts to the experience, which I suppose is true of anything, and in the end I find that I’m regarding it as something of a “practice” novel, in the sense of it being a learning experience both in the writing and the publishing. I will admit that there were times this year when I wondered if I should have published it at all — I’m not ashamed of it by any means, but I’m already a better writer than I was even when the final draft was completed, so the weak parts certainly stand out to me, and some sluggish sales didn’t help my confidence about it. All in all, I’ve had to try to come to terms with the fact that, in a nutshell, I wrote this book for an audience that for the most part just wasn’t interested in it. (This has led to some ongoing soul-searching about just who my audience really is and how that may differ from who I’d assumed they were.) There’s no way to be certain, of course, but I kept having the feeling that if I’d written and published it ten years ago, or even five or six back when it was first written and being revised, perhaps it might have sold better in the furry fandom that existed then. But things change, and over the years since I first learned about furry, tastes have changed and evolved among its readers and book buyers. I’m grateful that BS&S has found readers who’ve enjoyed it (inside and outside the fandom), and I still believe it was worth writing and publishing and sharing with readers — but I also have to admit that it was written, at best, for a niche audience within a niche audience within a niche audience, and with that in mind, I had some unrealistic expectations for it that set me up for disappointment. At this point, while I’m still promoting it where opportunities present themselves, I know the best thing to do is turn my attention to finishing my next book, which I already know will be stronger, fresher, and appeal to potentially a much wider audience. (More on that in the obligatory “goals for 2013” post coming soon.)
On the more mainstream fantasy and science fiction publishing front, I have to admit this was something of an awesome year. “The Bear with the Quantum Heart” ended up being my second professional short story sale (the first one having been more than a decade ago), and along with “Horseman” in Black Static, “Bear” was my first taste of having a short story actually reviewed by various people I don’t know and who don’t know me. Along the same lines, “Bear” also marked my first true taste of impostor syndrome — yeah, sure this got published, but it was probably a fluke, and it’s obviously one of their lesser stories in terms of quality, and it got talked about a little but not that much, and… yeah. In the end, I finally shut myself up by telling myself that, issues of inevitably subjective editorial taste aside, Strange Horizons does not publish crap. My story was published by Strange Horizons; ergo, my story is not crap. Whether I will ever write the sorts of stories that wind up in “best of” anthologies or get nominated for Hugos or Nebulas or whatnot, the way I often catch myself fantasizing about… that remains to be seen. I hope so, of course, but I also recognize that a good deal of that sort of thing isn’t under my control. What is under my control is the writing — the characters, the story, the emotion — and most importantly, the willpower to finish and revise the drafts. As weird as some readers apparently found the story, and as far from my intentions as some may have interpreted it, I’m still darned happy with how “Bear” turned out, and to my mind that’s what counts.
(Footnote: Along with the impostor syndrome with “Bear” came another reminder: No matter how many positive comments I receive about a story, the one truly negative review I get is, of course, the feedback I remember most — in this case, at least partly because it reinforces the insecurities I already have about the kinds of stories I write. Which may be another blog post in itself.)
This was a good year for me for flash fiction, which amuses me because for the longest time I felt like I couldn’t write anything worth reading under 1000 words. My muse seems to delight in proving me wrong in her own good time, though, so I found myself writing a good amount of flash this year and was able to find good homes for “Secondhand,” “Nevermore,” and “Nativity.” (I even had a piece of Twitter fic published by Seven By Twenty, which I would have titled “Room Mother” if there’d been space.)
All that said, in the end it was a stronger year in terms of publishing than it was for writing new work, which means I need to get some more drafts finished soon if I don’t want 2013 to automatically wind up being a dry spell. I did just finish a novella, “Signal,” that I’m very happy with, and whether it’s through a magazine, small publisher, or self-publishing on Amazon/Smashwords, I’m hoping to get that in front of readers sometime in the coming year. (Again, watch this space.)
Well. That’s enough creative introspection for one day. Now let’s do the obligatory talk-back question that all blog posts are apparently supposed to end with — except in this case, I really am curious:
What did you do this year (creatively or otherwise) that you’re most proud of?