2023/2024: An End and a Beginning

Happy New Year 2024 image
Happy New Year, y’all!

2023 was a pretty good year for me. I know it was tough for a lot of people, so I acknowledge that if all you did in 2023 was survive, then I am glad for it and I am proud of you.

I submitted a lot of manuscripts in 2023: 100 total, in fact. Three of my stories were accepted for publication: “The Apocalypses of Cheryl Dean” appeared in Inner Worlds; “Flash Drive” was accepted by the Thirteen podcast for a Patreon-only release; and “Trying to Stay Dead”, a reprint, was picked up by Tales to Terrify, another podcast. I have no idea when the second two stories will come out or be available.

I wrote a few new short stories, but they will need some polish before I’m comfortable sending them out. I also worked on a pair of novels: And the Devil Will Drag You Under and Witness to the Scourge. Neither is ready for submission; I have a lot of revision notes for the former, and the first draft of the latter isn’t even finished yet. Still, I’m pretty pleased with the progress I made and I plan on finishing up Devil and sending it out to agents by the middle of the year. We’ll see what comes of that.

I also did a decent job of being less “precious” about my writing; that is, I didn’t take as much offense when stories were rejected by markets, and I think I responded better to critiques of my stories than I have. This is a thing I’ve been working on and improving on for years.

For 2024, I plan to: write a short story a week; work on daily pages for M. Todd Gallowglas’s Journalist Project; and finish up those two novels. I have other novel ideas brewing, including reviving an idea that I had a few years ago that I gave up on. Remember when I kept talking about a Big Secret Project? Well, that’s back on the table.

Oh! And I have a mailing list, which you can subscribe to above. I plan to post at least once a month.

So yeah. Those are my writing goals for the coming year.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, as I’ve mentioned before. But since New Year’s Eve is my birthday, and I’m a sucker for milestones like that, I do like to examine my focus and priorities and see what needs adjusting. I have written about this before, so I won’t rehash it all in this post. And I’ve already written about my writing plans and ambitions above.

Other areas of my life that deserve more attention include Health and Fitness (of course), Community InvolvementFamily and FriendsGamingReading, and, of course, Daikaijuzine. I imagine that I’ll be posting more about each of those in the coming year.

One of my favorite quotes in the world is this:

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

—Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I’ve tried to let that be my guiding philosophy for some time now, and I’ll continue to do so.

Anyway. That’s all for now. I hope you all have a good, safe, creative, and prosperous 2024.

Today’s recommendation is the Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. It’s an amazing series, featuring world-building that blew my tiny little brain when I read it, deep and rich characterizations, and an amazing writing style. Buy it or check it out of the library. Point is, you should read this series.

Box set of the Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin


‘Tis the season for Holidailies, which is almost at an end. Happy New Year!

Being an Ambitious Writer

A dragon writing on a typewriter
Here’s a dragon writing on a typewriter

I asked on social media and in several of the writing Discord servers that I belong to the following question:

Do you consider yourself an ambitious writer? And if you do, what does that mean to you?

So I am interested in whether my writer acquaintances and friends consider themselves ambitious in their writing. I got plenty of answers, ranging from those who don’t consider themselves ambitious at all to those who write 3-4 novels a year and plan on making a living with their writing within just a couple of years. One respondent said they plan to “redefine the genre”, which is definitely ambitious.

I think about some ambitious writers in history: J. R. R. Tolkien was definitely ambitious, in that he redefined how people read high fantasy fiction. C. S. Lewis as well. Neil Gaiman expanded fantasy again, and though he is modest he definitely “redefined the genre”.

In general, the answers I got as to what ambition means in writing means pushing boundaries, doing things that other writers haven’t done, and so on. In short, having an original vision and putting that vision out into the world.

Of course, the definition of “ambitious” is different for different people. Other writers defined ambition in writing as aiming for awards (in genre writing, such awards include the Hugo, the Nebula, and so on) or higher pay for their work.

I don’t think I’m very ambitious at work. When asked in the interview for my current job where I see myself in five years I answered, very honestly, that I had no management or supervisory ambitions; my only ambition is to get better at what I currently do.

As far as writing goes, my ambitions are to write better than I used to be: to constantly improve my craft and writing ability. Of course I’d like money, recognition and awards as well, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I set goals for myself and do my best to achieve them, but I can only control my own output; I can’t control my sales or whether I get awards or not. I think that’s fine too.

Any thoughts, readers, on what ambition and writing mean to you? I have a lot more to think about on this, and probably at least one more blot post to write.

Today I’m recommending my friend Paul’s Fenway Stevenson series, a mystery/thriller series which begins with The Reluctant Coroner.

Cover of The Reluctant Coroner by Paul Ardoin
This is the book I was telling you about just now!

Paul is an excellent writer, and I find this series compelling and engrossing, even though I don’t often read thrillers or mysteries. Paul is also in my writing group, so I get to read early drafts of these novels, and I consider myself very fortunate.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Shan MacGowan died last week, which is a shame and a tragedy for those of us who enjoy Irish/Celtic punk music. He was the lead singer for the Pogues, a brilliant band, and he did some solo work as well.

I’ve always liked Irish and Celtic music, but when a dormmate on the second floor of my dorm building introduced me to the Pogues album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash with its piratical tones and hardcore notes, I was hooked. I went out and bought several Pogues albums at the local music store, and loved them all; my favorite was If I Should Fall from Grace with God but Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash will always have a special place in my heart.

Of course, a classic song by the Pogues is their Christmas tune, “The Fairytale of New York”. Well, it may be a Christmas tune in the way that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, which is to say, only peripherally (I won’t get into that debate here, thankyouverymuch). Point is, it’s a classic tune. I’ve linked to the official video above. Be warned, it’s not safe for work or for children (which is why I was amused that it showed up in the soundtrack to Lily and Dash on Netflix a couple of years ago).

Is punk music part of your holiday tradition? I didn’t think so, though I certainly do enjoy this song as well as Dropkick Murphys “The Season’s Upon Us”:

My recommendation for today is, of course, the music of the Pogues. Check out Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, of course, as well as their other albums. Their music also shows up in the movie Lair of the White Worm.

Have a musical Holidailies!

How They See

Cover of An Immense World by Ed Yong
An Immense World by Ed Yong

Ever since I read An Immense World by Ed Yong (cover above), I’ve been obsessed with the term “Umvelt“. It’s a German word that, aside from the host of semiotically-charged terms in that Wikipedia entry, basically refers to how an organism perceives, interacts with, and navigates the world. It’s all about the senses.

We humans have five (well, a lot more than five, but we won’t get into that) sense: taste, smell, touch, vision, and hearing. With these senses we get all the information we need about the world around us in order to figure it out and what’s going on and how it affects us. Different people have different levels of access to different senses (e.g., a person who is blind or visually impaired has less access to the sense of sight), of course, so it’s impossible to say that any two humans experience the world in exactly the same way.

Animals do it differently. Dogs experience the world primarily through their nose, which is why it’s important to let dogs sniff as many things as they want when taking them on a walk. Cats are similar, though as apex predators (yeah, right, you five-pound ball of fluff trying to crawl up my leg) they also rely on their vision and hearing.

Currently, we have a foster kitten who is blind, and I’ve been watching her make her way through the world. When she’s walking around the kitten room, she uses her nose and her whiskers extensively. Sometimes she bumps her head lightly against the wall, but mostly her other senses serve her well; she can make her way around the room, bipping around obstacles she has memorized, playing with toys, and sniffing around the room to find water, food, treats, and the litter box. It’s actually rather astonishing.

Bright, the blind kitty
This is Bright, our blind foster kitty, who, along with her brother Merry, is available for adoption.

But a cat’s Umvelt is different than a human’s. We don’t rely on our noses and whiskers as much as they do. So there are differences.

Further away from us evolutionarily, we get bats who use echolocation to find food (contrary to myth, apparently, bats are not blind; they can see just dandy) and explore the world. Most humans can’t do that (though some blind people have learned to “click” and experience the world around them with that sort of echolocation). Some birds are able to sense gravity differently than we do, or the magnetic fields of the earth to figure out how their migration routes.

Whales, insects, birds, bats, cats, dog, even plants all experience the world and have sensory input from it. Every organism has its own Umvelt.

In critters that have brains, that brain is usually the central processing unit of all those senses; however, that’s kind of diffuse as well. An octopus’s brain is in its head, but each arm of an octopus has its own neural processing unit, its own brain, which can process the sensory input from that one arm and respond to it while sending that information on to the rest of the organism and… Well, octopuses are amazing and confusing animals.

There is evidence that much there are sensory inputs for much larger “meta-organisms”, such as a huge fungal distribution, or a colony of social insects, or even forests; Yong does not go into these so much, so you’d have to read another book, Ways of Being by James Bridle.

Cover of "Ways of Being"
Cover of “Ways of Being” by James Bridle

Ways of Being is a much more philosophical book, and I won’t go into here because even though I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, I still have to process it.

What does all this have to do with Christmas and the holidays? I don’t know if it has anything to do with Christmas and the holidays. I just thought it was neat.

Today I recommend the Zombies are Human series of novels by my friend Jamie Thornton. I’ve maintained for a long time that it’s impossible to do a fresh take on the zombie genre, but Jamie’s done a great job of doing just that. The series starts with book zero, Germination, and goes from there. Read, read, and keep reading. You’ll enjoy these.

Germination: Book Zero of the Zombies are Human series
Germination: Book Zero of Jamie Thornton’s Zombies are Human series

Even zombies enjoy Holidailies.

NaNoWriMo 2023: How’d I do?

Covid virus
THIS is what I’ve been fighting all week!

Warning: This post is utterly unstructured. It’s rambly. Unfocused. Incoherent. Enjoy.

The first thing I want to say is that my short story “The Apocalypses of Cheryl Dean” has been published by Inner Worlds magazine, and can be found online. It’s one of my favorite stories, and I am so glad it found a good home. The other stories in that issue are all wonderful as well. Check it out!

Well, I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo this year, by which I mean I did not reach 50,000 words in my novel before November 30. Just after mid-November, I altered my goal, since I was sick, so I aimed for 25,000 words by November 30. I did not reach that goal either. I ended up with about 23,000 words on Witness to the Scourge because, well, I was sick. With COVID. Yes, it’s still out there, people. I’m glad I am fully vaccinated with all kinds of boosters, since I’d hate to think of how badly off I’d be otherwise. Instead it just settled in my lungs like a cold, and filled up my sinuses, and only gave me one night of shivering fever. I’m reasonably sure that I won’t end up with long COVID.

So, Witness to the Scourge will have to wait until I feel better.

My family celebrates Thanksgiving today, as well as my mom’s birthday. Unfortunately, I can’t make it, because, as I already said, COVID. This makes me unutterably sad. I am, of course, grateful for a number of things: COVID vaccines and boosters, modern medicine in general, and so on. My pulmonologist in particular has been very helpful. I have a birthday present to send to my mom, or to deliver on Christmas Eve, but I won’t say what it is here.

On writing in general, I wonder if I should strive to be a more ambitious writer, meaning that I should aim to write better, write more, write faster, and really push that publication agenda. I mean, I already write quite a bit, I submit manuscripts twice a week, but I tend to trunk my novels before actually finishing them (see my previous post on that, “The Trunkening“). I need to go in with a solid vision of the story, and, you know, actually finish them. I’ll come up with an agenda, suggested by my friend Theresa, and see what happens.

I suppose that’s all I’ve got this time around. I promise my next post with be more coherent.

So this time I’m going to recommend the Penelope Standing Mysteries by my friend T. M. Baumgartner, writing as Tess Baytree. I don’t read many cozy mysteries, but this series is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend them. Start, of course, with the first one, Death Walks a Dog, and go from there.

Death Walks a Dog
Death Walks a Dog by Tess Baytree

It’s Holidailies Time, but this year I have no penguin adventures to share with you. My deepest apologiest.