It’s been ten years since my first short story was published. If Amazon is to be believed, Summoned to Destiny, the anthology containing “White Shadow”, came out on September 1st, 2004. Which, as it so happens, is my birthday.
They say it takes ten years to get good at something, don’t they? That’s one of the random metrics, anyway. Ten years from my first published story to a World Fantasy nomination; not bad. 😛 Of course, I was writing long before “White Shadow” came out. I got what I consider to be my first mature novel ideas when I was seventeen — ideas that ultimately became Lies and Prophecy and Doppelganger — and ten years later I was writing Midnight Never Come, which I view as one of the benchmarks of me leveling up as an author. I have no idea what I’ll be writing in 2017, since I’ll draft the last of the Memoirs next year, and (probably) The Changing Sea the year after that. But I bet it’ll be fun. 🙂
Anyway! Long-time readers of this blog may recall I have a tradition — not observed every year, but going on more years than not for the last decade and more — of a “birthday egotism” post. Back in 2003, I was having kind of a blah time of it on my birthday, and decided to counteract that with a post wherein I listed awesome things about myself, with no disclaimers, caveats, or moderating language allowed. The idea is that, like many people, I am good at downplaying my own achievements, and it’s valuable to have one day where I get to just bask in the happy — especially because I can go back and look at it later, when I need a pick-me-up. So behind the cut you will find a listing of what I’ve done that I’m proud of since 2012 (that being the last time I made a birthday egotism post). It begins with the traditional phrasing:
I’m thirty-four today. What have I got to show for it?
I have a World Fantasy Award nomination, is what. 😀
Seriously, that has to go at the top of the list. It really did blindside me, and I still stop to croggle at it occasionally. A Natural History of Dragons is on a list that says “Best Novel” and includes Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, Richard Bowes, Helene Wecker, and Sofia Samatar. How. freaking. awesome. is. that.
I’ve written two novels, six short stories, and a work of nonfiction (Writing Fight Scenes). I’ve sold five short stories, two of them on their first trip out of the gate, one of which was straight-up solicited by the editor — as in, I got an email saying “I’m doing an anthology and would like you to write something for it.” I’ve sold a novelette, which also marks my first success at breaking into Tor.com. I’ve seen three novels, one novella, two novelettes, and four short stories appear in the world — those metrics don’t always line up — plus two podcasts of my work. I’ve sold three novels, when I was little more than one book into my previous three-book contract; that, my chickadees, is what job security looks like for a novelist. My agent has also successfully sold UK rights, audio rights, various foreign rights. I’ve dipped my toes into the wild world of ebook publishing. I’ve run a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than 200% of my original goal, for a book I’ve wanted to write for more than ten years now.
I’ve also written twenty-four pieces of fanfic, almost all of them for exchanges, and never gotten less than a very pleased comment from the recipient. There’s a special delight to knowing I made one specific person happy, by writing them the story they wanted to read.
I’ve taught at TIP — Duke University’s Talent Identification Program. This is kind of huge for me, because I was a TIPster for four years in junior high and high school, and it meant I got to give back to the community that gave me so much. I spent three very intensive weeks teaching science fiction and fantasy writing to a group of twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, all of whom had listed my course as their first choice out of all the summer-program options. It’s impossible for me to judge exactly what the long-term effect of that will be, but those sixteen kids spent the entire last hour of the course making teary farewell speeches to one another about how phenomenal the experience was; as metrics of success go, that one’s pretty good. (And, not that I can really take credit for this, but I found out two students who met in my SF/F course at IU have gotten married. And they’re still writing!)
I’ve become shodan-ho, a “probationary black belt,” in karate, and a green-and-white belt in kobudo. I’ve traveled to Okinawa for a week-long seminar in karate and kobudo, practicing the art with people from Germany, Spain, and Denmark. I’ve gone to England and France with my husband, introducing him to London, and seeing Oxford, Brighton, and Paris for the first time. I’ve gone to Monterey and Sausalito, and around the San Francisco Bay on a catamaran. I’ve gone to Poland. I used to list the cons I’d been to as part of these posts, the panels I’d participated in, but at this point there are so many I can’t actually remember them all. I do remember, though, that I’ve been on my first book tour (for A Natural History of Dragons) and my first tour with another author (with Mary Robinette Kowal, for The Tropic of Serpents and her Valour and Vanity).
I’ve become a better photographer! My father’s lessons a while back have paid off, and I’ve spent much of the last two years editing my photos in Lightroom, making it through all the digital ones and, as of typing this post, all but 350 or so of the scanned prints. I’ve been doing the Year in Pictures series of posts, which have gotten a lot of good feedback, and I’m even considering entering the county fair photography contest next year.
I’ve started playing piano again, after years away from it. I’ve started swimming again, ditto, and even joined a gym. (I’ve survived a third ankle surgery. That’s an achievement, dammit.) I’ve run a tabletop game in the Dragon Age setting and started another one in Legend of the Five Rings; I’ve become a freelancer for AEG, the company that produces L5R, and have a folder in my account on their forum for the private messages I’ve received thanking me for my contributions to the community there. I’ve made soundtracks, for books and for games alike. I’ve learned things about Africa and Polynesia and the Proto-Indo-European language, all in the name of work. 🙂
I’ve probably forgotten stuff. And that’s an achievement in its own way, because it means there has been enough good in the last two years that I can’t even remember it all!
And, because it’s the ten-year anniversary of my first published story, I want to back up and take another tally, this one going all the way back to the beginning of my experiences as a writer. I have a place where I list all the fiction I’ve completed, and I want to see what it adds up to:
four skit scripts
three puzzle game stories
one short nonfiction book
twenty-seven flash pieces
one hundred and four short stories
That’s everything, or at least as close to everything as my records can get it: published, sold, unsold, trunked, unsubmitted, fanfic, OM skits, the mystery story I wrote when I was nine. It isn’t actually everything, because I’ve probably forgotten stuff, and I know for certain that it doesn’t include any of the fiction I’ve written for RPG characters, which has added up to rather a lot over the years. But it’s the most complete count I have. A more discriminating list:
Published or completed and forthcoming
one short nonfiction book
seventeen flash pieces
thirty-eight short stories
Not bad. Not bad at all. 🙂
Happy my birthday to all of you, and I hope you have a splendid day!