This year (2013) has definitely been the year of the short story. I read more than a dozen short story anthologies and nearly 100 (as yet) unpublished shorts by writer colleagues in writing workshops.
I also read more books this year than last, and although I once again did not achieve my goal of finishing 60 books, I did come close. I read a good deal more Science Fiction than Fantasy this year, as a result, have come to value and enjoy the genre almost as much as Fantasy.
- Favorite anthology: This is a tie between Lightspeed Year One and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 by Robert Silverberg. In the Hall of Fame anthology, James Blish’s Surface Tension and The Little Black Bag by C. M. Kornbluth were my favorites; and I so enjoyed so many of the Lightspeed stories, I became a subscriber.
- Favorite new author and series: Richard Kadrey and his Sandman Slim series, as well as his standalone novel, Butcher Bird. His unique perspective and inner eye for bizarre and horrifically wonderful nightmare settings sets him apart from anyone I’ve ever read.
- Notable Classics: One of my reading goals for this year was to read more by the masters of the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle was a quiet story, which charmed me as every bit as much as his better-known The Last Unicorn.
- Favorite Writing Book(s): Two authors made a radical and welcome change in my ideas about creativity, writing, and life. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have opened my eyes to a whole new world as a writer and publisher. Kris’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide and Dean’s Think Like A Publisher: A Step-by-Step Guide to Publishing Your Own Books are the most frequently used books in my library.
- Favorite Books from Favorite Authors: I reread the entire John D. MacDonald Travis McGee series while riding the bike at my local gym. What an engrossing and painless way to stay in shape!
- Biggest Disappointment: Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth. Seven hundred pages that started slow and never really grabbed me. I know he’s considered a master of the genre, but I never really connected with his characters.
Lesson 1: I don’t know why, but I never considered anthologies as a source of fiction before. I love novels, and generally don’t read much short fiction, but this year, that all changed. In addition to those mentioned, I’m looking forward to the Hugos and Year’s Best Science Fiction, and Ellen Datlow’s next horror project.
Lesson 2: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in this ‘year of the short story’, I made my first professional sale and received an Honorable Mention from Writers of the Future for short stories I wrote. And while it’s taken me a while to figure out why that story sold, I’m now convinced that writing short stories will help me in my novel writing as well (in terms of both craft and building a following for my longer works).
Lesson 3: My move to Oregon from Idaho a year ago changed my life more profoundly than I could have ever imagined. The genre writer’s community here is welcoming and supportive, and I have been fortunate enough to find wonderful mentors and colleagues who have taught me invaluable lessons in both craft and the business of writing. But for every ‘aha’ moment, I’ve also come to realize there is so much more to learn. Looking back, I cannot believe how far I’ve come this year. Looking forward to 2014, I know I’ve only just begun.