At long last (365 days in fact) we get to welcome 2024 and say goodbye to 2023. It couldn’t quite compete with the likes of 2022, 2021, or (hell’s bells) 2020 for sheer existential dread, but it certainly tried hard.

This year we moved from Maryland to Maine, a change in locales we were excited to make. But our beloved golden retriever, Cooper, passed away shortly after we arrived, which made the transition far more painful than we expected. My wife, meanwhile, has transitioned from seventeen years of work as a high-school English teacher and is now a full-time creative and hoping to build an editing service upon the foundations of all that time spent helping young adults hone their work. My father transitioned from a man with slight memory loss to full-on dementia, and moved from Maine to Texas to be with my brother and his wife, an unexpected and painful decision for all, but one that was very necessary.

Life throws you curves.

The writing hasn’t been everything I wanted this year thanks to those curves. I succeeded in seeing six stories published, which was a thrill and the most I’ve in any year. But I only sold two new stories this year; the bulk of the titles that went into publication in 2023 actually sold in 2022. I submitted more times than I ever had (89), got more rejections than ever before, and generally pushed hard without much result.

Last year I didn’t do a New Year’s post. We were traveling to get an early look at some homes in New England, then I had to throw myself back into work upon our return. So, I’ll look at my successes more than my failures, since I didn’t really engage in goal setting for 2023. It can’t be a failure if I didn’t claim I would succeed!

Stories Written

I was surprised to realize I finished 7 new stories this year. I say “new,” although one was first started almost thirty years ago and had been kicking around in my story folders ever since. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and thought “you know, I still like this,” so I performed a little re-write and edit and have been sending it off. It’s been held several times already, confirming my feelings about its worth. One of the new ones sold, the rest are being submitted regularly.

Last year’s finished short story titles:

A History of Ghosts
Fox & Troll Bake a Cake
Buried Beneath the Song He’d Become (the very old one)
A Wolf Howls in No Man’s Land
Any Step Forward
The Jackdaw Sings in Ivanhoe
One Last Night at Benny’s Magic Fantastic Cabaret (the sold one)

I also finished the first draft of a new novel (just touching up one final chapter), a secondary world fantasy which postulates a world war between the nations of witches and the empires of technology. The series I’m calling The Fallen Veil, and this first novel is titled Cast Upon Thorns of Steel.

Stories Sold

Besides selling One Last Night at Benny’s Magic Fantastic Cabaret to Third Flatiron for their Rhapsody of the Spheres anthology, I sold The Gollywhopper Egg to Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, marking my third sale to them (and they currently have another of my stories on hold, which could be my fourth sale to that venue. . . I’m apparently well received in Australia, at least at one magazine anyway).

Other Work

I created the Speculative Fiction Magazine Subscription page to help folks find magazines and lend them financial support. It’s been well received by the community and I hope folks are sharing it around while giving rousing speeches on the joy of reading short stories. If more people who claimed they have “no time” to read novels could be turned on to short stories, novelettes, and novellas, we might have a chance of preserving – even growing – the existing markets. But we also need retailers who don’t view the slim profit margin they make from magazines as beneath them to handle. Profit is profit, even small profit.

Goals for 2024

So, what goals to set this year? Well, I have a couple wrapped around novels, and I’ll toss in some more short story goals as well.

      1. Finish light editing pass on Cast Upon Thorns of Steel prior to critique in May.
      2. Write first draft of second Mirabel Sinclair noir fantasy series (follow up to my self-published novel Shadow of a Doubt).
      3. Finish 4 new short stories.
      4. Launch Library Youtube/Podcast series. Something the wife and I want to work on, a series about the very beautiful libraries of Maine.
      5. Support wife as she transitions to new career. Naturally! She has all my love and support, and I’ll do everything I can to help her be successful in whatever goals she sets for herself this year (but I have little doubt she’ll be successful all on her own). Check out her website: J. Rey Edit and Proof
      6. More reviewing. I’ll be returning to doing magazine story reviews. Clarkesworld, Uncanny, and Analog for the big names; Apparition Literary, Hexagon, and Mythaxis for the semi-pro’s (mid-tier I like to think of them). I will also be doing more market reviews for the Speculative Fiction Magazine page.

I can’t control sales, so I won’t plan for any goals around those. Sales are entirely dependent on when markets are open, who the editors are, what their tastes may be, etc, etc. It’s really a bit of a crap shoot. You can try and target pieces for certain folks, but with the exception of Andromeda Spaceways, I can’t seem to figure out what people will like on a consistent enough basis. But I’ll keep trudging along because I still love writing stories in all lengths.

Welcome 2024! Here’s hoping the world finds its way to peace in all the places where war is raging and millions are suffering. May your new year be one of joy and discovery.

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