End of year summary 2015: a beautiful nightmare

/ Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 / 2 Comments »

So I drop in a heap at the end of 2015 feeling like I’ve packed several years’ worth of creative living into one. This ain’t the first time for that, but even judged my often hyper-busy standard this has been a barnstormer of a year, a strenuous ascent of a year, one hell of a year. I haven’t come out of it completely unscathed — I’m undergoing physical therapy right now for two unrelated injuries — but still, this year’s gonna be really hard to top.
Keith Laumer’s “Test to Destruction” in Dangerous Visions recounts the ordeal of a man being telepathically tortured by aliens while simultaneously physically tortured by fellow humans. Back in May, I joked to friends that I was living my “Test to Destruction,” simultaneously running the Kickstarter campaign to fund Clockwork Phoenix 5 while researching and writing a special section about the renovation and return of the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam locomotive for my newspaper day job. I got it all done, with lots of wonderful help and support, but getting there was a bear.
That same month, my short story collection Unseaming made the shortlist for the Shirley Jackson Award and hit sales rank #101 overall on Amazon. Papaveria Press released the limited edition hardcover of my novella The Quiltmaker. And Publishers Weekly gave a starred review to Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney, the first solo-author short-story collection Anita and I have ever published through our Mythic Delirium Books imprint. And in the midst of all that I ran a charity 5k.
No other month was quite that intense, but really, things never slowed down much.
I did have some previously unpublished (and some previously published) writing make it into print in 2015.

  • “The Sky-Riders,” a comic steampunk sci-fi Western I co-wrote with my friend Paul Dellinger appeared as an e-book, an audiobook, and finally a trade paperback.
  • Short story “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” a continuation of the world envisioned in my story “The Hiker’s Tale,” appeared in Rhonda Parrish’s anthology Corvidae.
  • My surreal piece “The Spider Tapestries” appeared in Lackington’s and will be the title story of my forthcoming collection.
  • My even more surreal story “Monster” re-manifested in audio form at Pseudopod.
  • Ellen Datlow, in her Best Horror of the Year long list of Honorable Mentions, gave kind nods to “Monster,” “The Lead Between the Panes” and “The Quiltmaker” from Unseaming, and to “Tardigrade” from Jason V. Brock’s A Darke Phantastique.
    Poetry-wise, the last of my unpublished “Claire-dare” poems reached daylight, an important personal milestone for me. Poems that appeared:

  • Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke,” Van Gogh’s Ear, January 9.
  • “The Bone Bird” and “Purloined,” Spectral Realms 2, Winter.
  • “Dearly Beloved” from Postscripts to Darkness 5 (2014), reprinted in the 2015 Rhysling Anthology
  • “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher,” co-written with C.S.E. Cooney, in Spectral Realms 3, Summer.
  • Chagall’s Lamp,” first published in Strange Horizons in 2005, reprinted in Strange Horizons: The First Fifteen Years
  • Dormant,” Through the Gate 8, October
    Though I adored Suzette Haden Elgin and loved working with her, I have mixed feelings about the award for poetry collections that the Science Fiction Poetry Association created to honor her memory. Nonetheless, I was honored to have my poetry collection Hungry Constellations in the running for that award. (For the record, I won exactly zero awards this year, but it was nice to have nominations.)
    The biggest news for me writing-wise was a holdover from 2014. Back when Unseaming was loaded into the launch bay, Anita asked me what I hoped to see it do, and I answered that it would be amazing if it sold 1,000 copies. She asked me what I would do if it sold 5,000. I told her it was too unlikely to bother contemplating. But the actual answer, it turns out, was: celebrate with ice cream!
    So at year’s end, my baffling and gruesome book has now sold over 6,000 copies, more than 5,000 of those in e-book format, mostly Kindle, and brought home more than 10k in royalties. In addition to the Shirley Jackson Award nomination, it made the This Is Horror Award shortlist, and cover artist Danielle Tunstall was a Chesley Award finalist for her amazing photo manipulation work with model Alexandra Johnson. I got to read from the book at the legendary KGB Bar in Manhattan. I even got fan mail. BONKERS.
    Just to stay level-headed, I recently had a cool conversation with a fellow who writes cookbooks — from his perspective, only 6k in sales would be a disaster of colossal proportions. In genreland, though, those are decent numbers, or so suggests Chuck Wendig. I confess, it’s nice to feel validated for all my dogged persistence through the years. (Hopefully the feeling lasts!)
    I don’t expect my follow-up, The Spider Tapestries, to do anywhere near as well, as it’s half as long as Unseaming and ten times as weird. But we’ll see…
    Not everything was brag-worthy, for sure. After getting a good look at the real sales figures for my first novel, The Black Fire Concerto, I put sequel The Ghoulmaker’s Aria on the back burner even though the first draft is finished. Then after the Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter succeeded my creative life was absorbed in everything I needed to make to ensure backers get all they paid for. (That summary is here.) I did manage to sell a handful of new short stories, to Joe Pulver for The Leaves of a Necronomicon, Scott Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Scott Gable for Tommorow’s Cthulhu, all of which will hopefully give me new things to blog about at the end of 2016.
    So how was your year? Feel free to tell me in a comment or link me to your own summary.
    P.S.: Neglected to mention, I got to write a blurb for a book of poetry by Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann! How weird and cool is that?


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    2. Sheree says:

      Mike, you had an amazing year, congrats!

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