Reading 2014

I read a lot in 2014. Some books I loved, some books I hated; there were only two I did not finish.

I finished 70 books, if this list I keep is to be believed, and we’ll believe it, sure, because it’s in black and white and black and white is comforting, it reassures us that all is well and fine and okay, except when it doesn’t, like in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, which is probably the best set of books I read this year.

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This rabbit clearly escaped Area X…

I bought them in paper, after hearing how gorgeous they were; FSG did a really smashing job with the whole paper set (and now has a hardcover that contains all three). Now that I’ve finished Acceptance, I want to read book one all over again because I feel like there are things I missed.

I read a lot of books this year that will inform my own writing; books about circuses and haunted houses, books about living landscapes and the women who travel through them. I read poetry and biographies, and classics I still haven’t finished (The Divine Comedy, you are gorgeous, but why so long!).

I discovered new-to-me authors, and read one of those books that everyone has said I needed to read forever plus one day — those books, I have to come to in my own time, for lo I am stubborn and busy cramming other books into my eyes.

I remembered what it was to enjoy reading again — a challenge when one is both a writer and an editor. You forget how to sink into a story and just enjoy it without breaking it apart and studying its bones. Oh, that probably still comes later — especially with the VanderMeer, but to find the JOY again…this is what 2014 was somehow about.

Reading became, again, a refuge.

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Les_Catacombes,_1855

By the Numbers

It’s always interesting to look back and see how the year went — isn’t it? (Isn’t it?! Well, okay, in some respects. Not counting: how many pints of gelato consumed, or friends lost to cancer.)

But writingwise: sales, rejections, submissions, # markets to sale, published, pending, words written in total. Stories I trunked? New stories written, number of drafts, number of reprints. Here’s how 2014 breaks down for short stories:

  • 21 sales
  • 42 rejections
  • 58 submissions
  • 3 pending
  • 1 cancelled
  • 16 stories published
  • 15 new stories written (82,366 words; includes three flash (what!), one novelette, and one novella; 1 apparently-impossible-to-sell story)
  • 1 new novel begun (12,000 words)
  • 3 story reprints
  • 2 trunked

That sales number is ridiculous, and a personal all-time high. What does it mean? Probably no more than I wrote more and thus sent more out into the world. My shortest story written was 666 words (ha!); the longest was 25,000.

On average, my stories visited 4.7 markets before they sold. I had ten stories that sold to their first market; I had four stories that visited 15-21 markets before sale. 11 of the 15 new stories have sold.

You’ll notice I don’t trunk a lot. The two things I trunked this year were: a story that has pretty much hit all the markets it can for the time being, and a story that was written for a specific market and will absolutely not fit anywhere else given its subject. These may come out later, but for now, they sit.

I also don’t go through a lot of drafts. My process tends to be this:

  1. Get glimmer of idea (image, character, opening line), write in notebook;
  2. Noodle with idea a lot; handwritten brainstorming; may continue for months, but is usually much shorter;
  3. Idea will no longer shut up; write in a flood.

My first draft ends up pretty solid, given that it has had a lot of time to percolate before I pour it out. I go in knowing the beginning and the end point; we may take detours, but we know what we need to hit along the way — don’t always get there the way we planned (like in the last piece I finished), which is often a delight, because it still amazes me how a story you know can utterly surprise you.

Also, after 14 years of writing and selling, you get an idea for how a story works and needs to come together. Overnight success! Yeeees. (What’s her name again? Who?)

As good as my short story numbers look, my novels were less successful. Masque Books has declined to handle further Anubis adventures, owing to poor sales of Rings of Anubis. This is maybe something authors don’t talk about — when a book fails in terms of sales numbers, but really seems to connect with the people who do find it. It’s a terrible place to be. What does the author do?

The author writes. I still believe in the work, the universe, and am planning more — so stay tuned on that front. I hope to have news soon. Publishing has changed so we adapt and carry on, my wayward son!

I know no other way forward.

treasure-soon

Gifted

Long ago and far away, there were remarkable things called bookplates. They seem to have fallen out of fashion in the present age, which I find disappointing, as I always liked them (which is to say I was absolutely addicted).

A bookplate is a small and gorgeous sticker that you can put in a book; typically they say “ex libris” and your name, a way of labeling your book with the hope that it always comes home when you lend it. (This doesn’t always help, though, and I stopped lending books a long while ago, finding it was easier to gift books, rather than expect them to come back.)

The first bookplate I encountered was in a used book. My first inclination was to rip it out–it didn’t have MY name on it, but then I realized, oh it could very well have. Stickers with gorgeous art and my name on them? That was an addiction waiting to happen. The bookplate without my name was a neat artifact, a way to trace where the book had been, to whom it had once belonged. History. Book archaeology!

Then, something glorious began to happen: favorite authors started doing bookplate giveaways. A friend sent me a bookplate from A.C. Crispin which I shoved into my copy of Sarek, and I sent a self-addressed stamped envelope to Diana Gabaldon, to acquire bookplates for the first three books in her Outlander series.

It suddenly meant I didn’t have to track authors down at conventions I couldn’t otherwise affortreasure-moresoond to finally get their signatures. I could send a stamped envelope and receive bookplates in the mail. What! Genius!

Turns out, marks of ownership within books date as far back as Egypt, which makes bookplates an even more perfect tie-in for my novel, Rings of Anubis. Mark your book! Leave a little slice of history for someone to discover a hundred years in the future!

If you have purchased a copy of Rings of Anubis, and would like an autographed bookplate, let’s do this. Get in touch with me via my contact form or through a DM on Twitter (@ECthetwit); prove to me that you purchased the book (points for originality), and I’ll totally send you a signed bookplate to stick in your book. You can even leave proof in this here thread. You don’t even have to send me an envelope. I got this thing!

(Quantities are limited! One label per book. May contain a secret map to a pharaoh’s treasure; does not contain nuts. Author not responsible for curses distributed by mummy, jackal ghost, or ancient gods. When traveling through time and space, buckle up, and please mind the gap. Please rinse before consumption, to lessen the chance of swallowing the Sahara, unless you’ve tea close to hand.)

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IT'S FULL OF STARS!