2016: A Writing Rearview Review

And that’s a wrap on 2016, some might say mercifully so. As for how 2016 treated me and my writing career, I would rate the year as “not too shabby.”

Let us now turn to a whole bunch of stats because they are the super-duperest, most fun thing ever. Full disclosure: I love stats. It’s a personal failing, I know.

Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi Submissions

Total Submissions Sent: 54*

Better than last year but not nearly as many as I would have liked. The biggest reason I didn’t get as many short story submission out there is pretty easy to figure. I was writing novels for a lot of the year, the first of which was published in 2016. That ate a lot of writing time with, uh, more writing. Anyway, not too bad.

Acceptances: 9

Okay, this is a better number, and it’s almost double what I did last year. I also increased my acceptance ration from 13% to 17%, a number I hope to raise even further in 2017.

Form Rejections: 29

I actually received more form rejection than last year, but since I primarily submitted to top-tier markets in 2016, that’s not too bad. In addition, I received a number of higher-tier form rejections from this publications, which tells me I’m getting closer to an acceptance (I hope).

Personal Rejections: 10

About the same number of these as last year. A number of these were for stories for which I received a further consideration letter but the publisher ultimately decided to pass. Disappointing, but still a step in the right direction.

Never Responded/Withdrawn: 1

Just one of these in 2016, and it was because the publication went out of business. Disappointing because the story was short-listed. Oh, well; it’s a tough ol’ market out there for small genre zines.

*I still have five submission pending, so percentages are based on the submissions that have received a response.

Privateer Press

I still write a bunch for Privateer Press, and here’s what I did in 2016.

Novels: 1.3

I finished one novel in 2016 for Privateer Press, Acts of War: Flashpoint, which was published in July. I’m currently writing another one, Acts of War II, and I’m blogging my progress as I go along. You can see those blog posts right here.

Novellas: 1

I wrote one novella for Privateer Press that I can’t talk about yet because it’s still going through revisions. I’ll have more info on that soon.

Short Stories: 4

I wrote four short stories for Privateer Press in 2016, one of which was published in No Quarter magazine, and three others that were part of an introductory product for Privateer’s primary game lines WARMACHINE and HORDES.

Articles: 4

I also penned four articles for No Quarter Magazine, which is about par for the course. All of these were about the Iron Kingdoms setting.


Lastly, there’s this blog itself, and 2016 was my first full year of blogging. I couldn’t quite keep up with three posts per week like I had initially set out to dao, but I was routinely able to put out two posts. I learned a lot this year about the kinds of things folks like to read and the kinds of things they’re unlikely to read. One thing that will change in 2017 is the amount of self-promotional posts on the blog. I won’t go crazy, but I’ve got some big projects this year I want to talk about in addition to the usual rejectomancy stuff.

Here are the raw stats for the blog.

  • Total Posts: 88
  • Total Visitors: 7,816
  • Total Likes: 646
  • Total Comments: 470

I didn’t write that many more posts than I did in 2016, and I think I likely should have done a few more. Again, the novels ate into my writing time, but that’s not a great excuse. This year, I’d like to get those numbers up and hit at least 10k visitors.


Here’s what my total output for 2016 looked like in hard numbers. It’s less than last year for a number of reasons, but I’m not too unhappy. Like last year, I’m only counting stuff I wrote that was either published or is slated for publication.

  • Words Written: 194,250
  • Articles/Stories/Novels Published: 19

2017 Goals

I’m not going to go into too much detail here because my goals basically amount to write and publish more stuff. Here’s a couple of things, though.

  • Write more stories, submit more stories, and get more stories accepted.
  • Write three novels: two novels for Privateer Press and one novel for my agent to shop (my own IP).
  • Blog more. More promotional posts and more rejectomancy/writing posts.

2016 Free-to-Read Published Stuff 

If you’d like to have a look at some of the things I published this year, here are some links to short stories you can read (or listen to) for free.

And that, friends and colleagues, was my 2016 in the wild world of freelance writing. How was your year? Tell me about it in the comments.

My Meandering Path to Writerly “Fame and Fortune”

One of things people ask me on a fairly regular basis, more so lately, is how did you get started with writing and editing, and how did it end up being your “job?” Well, my career trajectory has been kind of all over the damn place, and there really isn’t a straight line between Point A (non-writer) to Point B (writer). So, I’ll try and sum it up here. Despite the title of this post (which is most definitely tongue firmly lodged in cheek), I am NOT trying to tell you I’m some kind of hit-shit famous writer, because I certainly am not that.

Okay, here goes. (FYI, this is gonna be long, and it’ll really test your endurance for my particular brand of “wit.”)

Let’s get the cliché stuff out of the way first. Yes, I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was a wee lad. My first memories of trying to write are from when I was five or six. I would grab these big reference books on marine biology or dinosaurs (my two favorite subjects at the time), open them up to a random page, and then start copying the text onto a piece of notebook paper. I’d usually get a couple of paragraphs done in my huge, shaky five-year-old handwriting, not having clue one what the fuck I was actually writing, then run off to display my authorial prowess to my mother. Mom did not think she had a marine paleontological prodigy on her hands, but she did get what I was doing, and encouraged my interest in writing from early on.

Okay, jumping forward a lot. I started dabbling with poetry in my teens, writing angsty rhyming verse about dragons and demons and vampires throughout my junior and senior years in high school. This evolved into something a bit more marketable (i.e., not total shit) in a few years, and I sent out my first poetry submissions in my early twenties. I promptly collected my first rejections letters, but I kept at it, and I eventually got some of my poems published in a few zines here and there. Sadly, those publications are lost to history—I lost my contributor copies and every single magazine that published me folded a long time ago. I know that kinda sounds like, “Yeah, I totally published all the poems in magazine, but they’re all in Canada, and you probably haven’t heard of them.” Sorry.

The poetry muse left me in my mid-twenties—I still don’t now why—and I really didn’t start writing again until I was nearly thirty. I started writing again because I had become enamored of the newest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game (3E for my fellow gamers out there). The new rules set allowed for a lot of customization, and better yet, the publisher of D&D, Wizards of the Coast, had created something called the Open Gaming License. I won’t bore you with the details, but the OGL basically allowed third-party publishers (and individuals) to create and sell material for the game.

Anyway, I really liked making monsters, and I especially liked taking existing monsters and making them unique in some way (again, for my fellow nerds, I was really into the templates that 3E introduced). I started adding little stories to my monstrous creations and then posting the whole thing on the forums of a popular D&D website called EN World. This eventually grew into full blown short stories and even novel-length creations, and I gained a bit of a following there.

Turns out, it wasn’t just fellow gamers reading my stuff on the EN World forums; a couple of publishers had taken an interest in my stuff too. These publishers included Skeleton Key Games and Goodman Games. I was offered some writing and editing gigs, working on various D&D-related projects. That started my career as a freelance game designer/editor/writer in the tabletop gaming industry, and I did that for a couple of years. My biggest publications during that time were with Wizards of the Coast in Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and it was pretty damn cool (and kind of a dream of mine) to get published by the folks that created the “official” version of the Dungeons & Dragons game.

Eventually, I parlayed my freelance gigs into a fulltime writing and editing position with Goodman Games, a company I’d done a lot of freelance work for. While with Goodman Games, my duties included running an in-house gaming magazine called Level Up, where I learned a lot of valuable skills. As luck would have it, my experience with Level Up prepared me for the next big step in my career.

In early 2009, I was laid off from Goodman Games as a fulltime employee (the RPG market had taken a real nosedive at that point), and I went back to freelance writing and editing. Those were lean times, let me tell you, and sometimes I wonder how the hell I survived. But one of the great things about the tabletop gaming industry is that it’s close-knit, and if you have some skill and experience and conduct yourself like something resembling a professional, one of your pro friends might think of you when a job opens up somewhere.

In early 2010, I got a call from Ed Bourelle, a guy I’d worked with off and on for years, and we’d grown pretty chummy. The year before he’d taken a position with Privateer Press, a tabletop miniature company that produced the award-winning games WARMACHINE and HORDES. Turns out, they had an in-house magazine called No Quarter that was in need of an editor-in-chief. Ed knew I’d done a similar a gig with Goodman Games, although on a smaller scale.

Ed asked me if a) I would be interested in the position, and b) could I come out to Seattle to interview. I think my answer to both questions was something like “Are you fucking kidding?! Please, say you’re not kidding.” The wife and I were living in my home town of Modesto at the time, and we were not exactly loving it. The prospect of an exciting new job in an exciting new city was just what the doctor ordered. Anyway, I flew out to Seattle, interviewed, and was offered the position, which I immediately accepted.

I served as the editor-in-chief for No Quarter magazine for three years, and I learned A LOT about editing and writing from the fantastic editors and writers at Privateer Press, folks like Darla Kennerud, Douglas Seacat, and Privateer Press owner and CCO Matt Wilson. That was a cool fucking job. Running a magazine is challenging, but it is never, ever boring. Every issue brings new obstacles to overcome and new accomplishments to achieve. You learn to think outside the box and get things done FAST. The Deadline is your unforgiving deity, and you must do all in your power to appease this hungry god.

In 2013, I became the publications manager for Privateer Press’ new fiction imprint, Skull Island eXpeditions, serving in a capacity that combined managing editor and acquisitions editor. Heading up Skull Island eXpeditions was a fantastic experience, and I had the amazing opportunity to work with some of the best fantasy writers in the business, as well as hone my own editorial skills.

Throughout my time at Privateer Press, I was writing a lot. I contributed fiction to No Quarter magazine and to the various core books for Privateer’s premier miniatures games WARMACHINE and HORDES. In addition, I was working hard on my own stuff, writing and submitting short stories to various horror and fantasy magazines. As much as I loved working at Privateer Press and running Skull Island eXpeditions, I really wanted to make writing my full time gig, so, in 2015, I took my shot and resigned from Privateer Press. Of course, my relationship with Privateer Press and owner/chief creative officer Matt Wilson didn’t end there. Privateer Press signed me to write a bunch of novels for them in their Iron Kingdoms universe, a setting with which I had become intimately familiar over the last five years. To say I was thrilled for that opportunity is the understatement of the century, and I’m super excited about the release of my first novel Acts of War: Flashpoint in June.

So, that takes me up to the present. Writing is now my fulltime occupation, and I’m working on novels for Privateer Press, writing horror short stories to submit to the many online zines and even a few print magazines, and I still do the occasional RPG and gaming project. If you’d like to see some of the stuff I’ve written over the years, there’s a fairly complete list of my writing and editorial credits on this blog.

There you have it, a stumbling, fumbling, meandering, sometimes ass-backwards path to the glories of writing for a living. Maybe you’ll find something of use here, but please note, I sure as shit don’t mean this to be a roadmap to a career in writing.

If you’d like to share your own tales of wonder and woe in the writing world, have at it. I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

2015: A Rearview Review

Well, it’s a new year, a blank slate of dreams and possibilities, so instead of focusing on the future and what it might bring, let’s wallow in the past. Yep, it’s one of those year-end review/summary type things we bloggers just love to do. So here’s a look back at my writing in the year of our lord 2015.

This post with be filled with stats because they are super-duper exciting.

Horror/Sci-Fi Submissions

Total Submissions Sent: 46*

Honestly, this is fewer than I’d hoped, and a lot of this has to do with my position at Privateer Press, which I left in June. It kept me pretty busy, and I had a grand total of five (5) submissions from January to June. Things picked up a lot when I abandoned a good, steady-paying job with benefits to hang my hopes and dreams on the sure-fire, cannot-possibly-miss, super-good-decision of becoming a fulltime freelance writer. Anyway, I sent another 41 submissions from June to December, averaging almost seven (7) a month.

Acceptances: 5

Not too shabby since it’s really just the second half of the year we’re talking about. This is good for a 13% acceptance ratio, which is okay, but it could certainly improve. Some of the stuff I published this year is available to read online, right here:

Form Rejections: 23

Yeah, bunch of these things. Form rejections made up 56% of my total responses from publishers. Seems about right to me, but I’m sure there are writers who have gotten more than I have or a hell of a lot less.

Personal Rejections: 11

A fair number of these, and 27% of editors who didn’t actually publish my work had something (usually positive) to say about my writing. Personal rejections accounted for about 40% of my total rejections.

Never Responded/Withdrawn: 2

Just a couple of these, and one of them was my own damn fault. I sent a story to a publisher they’d already rejected like a giant fucking tool-bag. I fired off a very apologetic—i.e., I’m-a-dumbass—withdrawal letter soon after.

*I still have five submission pending, so percentages are based on the submissions that have received a response.

Privateer Press

As some of you know, I write a fair amount of material for Privateer Press, and that stuff is not included in the stats above. So, what did I do for the fine folks at Privateer? Hey, look, more stats!

Novels: 1.5

Privateer has commissioned me to write a series of novels set in their Iron Kingdoms universe. I’ve finished one, and I’m working on the second. The first book is slated for publication in the third quarter of 2016.

Novellas: 1

I wrote a long novella or a short novel with former coworker and talented writer William Shick. It’s called Scars of Caen, and hey, look at that–a link to Amazon where you can check it out.

SIX Scars of Caine

Short Stories: 6

A wrote a total of six short stories for Privateer Press, ranging in length from 1,500-word flash pieces to 10,000-word novelettes. You can check out some of these via Amazon right here. The others appeared in the magazine No Quarter or will do so in the near future.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.32.17 AM    SIX Unleashed Legends

SIX_Iron Kingdoms Excursions s2 6_working-2

Articles: 4

In addition to short stories, I penned a number of articles for the Iron Kingdoms universe and its two primary games WARMACHINE and HORDES. These also appeared in the Privateer Press magazine No Quarter.


And lastly but no leastly, we have this here blog. It’s been a lot of fun to do, and it’s provided me an outlet for my opinions and my personal writerly woes. The response to the blog and the nonsense I write on it has been really positive, and I’m thrilled so many folks find my blathering useful or entertaining. Anyway, continuing our theme of stats and more stats . . . here are some more stats.

Total Posts: 75

Total Visitors: 4,015

Total Likes: 514

Total Comments: 252

I’m pretty satisfied with those numbers for my first six months, and I think I’ve found a groove for how often I should post. Those 75 posts and other bits and bobs total about 75,000 words of material, which is a fair amount, I think, and I’ll likely exceed that handily in 2016.


Okay, broad view, and, yes, more stats. Here’s what my total output for 2015 looked like in hard numbers. I’m only counting stuff I wrote that was either published or is slated for publication. I certainly started a lot of projects last year that I hope to finish this year, but that’s too many disparate bits to pull together

Words Written: 290,000

Articles/Stories/Novels Published: 16

2016 Goals

So, goals for next year. I’d like to double the number of horror/sci-fi submissions and shoot for an even 100. I’d like to increase my acceptance ration to 15%, which of course translates to 15 acceptances. One way I’d like to increase my submission rate is to complete at least one new story per month. I have ten or so in various states of completion, so this feels pretty reasonable.

I’m slated to write/finish three novels for Privateer Press in 2016, but if I can, I’d like to write a fourth novel for my agent to shop around. I’ve got some ideas for this book, but it’s another 90,000 words or so added to an already packed schedule. Might be tough, but it’s a goal worth shooting for.

As for the blog, I’d like to keep my pace of two to three substantive posts per week. That said, I have at least two novels coming out next year, so I’d like to use the blog to promote them. Don’t worry; I’m not going to turn the blog into a giant marketing platform, and the biggest change you’re likely to see is one additional post per week pimping out my latest book, story, or whatever. You can certainly ignore those posts, or, if you’re so inclined, click a link once in a while and behold the fruits of my labors.

Well, that’s my 2015 wrap-up post with too many numbers, self-aggrandizing drivel, and obvious excuses for failures and shortcomings.

How was your 2015? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Word Count Goals of the Rich & Famous

Here’s a nifty little article I found on a blog called Writers Write that details the writing habits, and more specifically, the word count goals of 39 famous authors. The article is called The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors, and it features big names like Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Mark Twain. It’s an interesting read, and I’m always fascinated by the routines of well-known authors, since it can vary a whole lot.

Go read the article, and if you dig it, throw the author a like or a Facebook or Twitter share. In the meantime, here are some things I took away from it:

  1. There’s no such thing as a “normal” routine for a professional writer. It’s a very specific, individual affair, and one man’s normal is another’s bat-shit crazy. (Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you R. F. Delderfield and your 10,000 words a day.)
  2. So, of course, I took an average of the word counts in the article. Throwing out the outliers, we get a rough average of 1,800 words per day. That’s lower than I would have guessed before reading the article, but it’s solid output, especially if you’re writing fulltime, five days a week. That’d be 9,000 words a week, 36,000 words a month, and a fairly staggering 468,000 words per year. Yeah, I know, most folks don’t write everyday, but even at half that number, you’re finishing two full-length novels or a metric fuck ton of short stories.
  3. You don’t have to write thousands of words per day to be successful. Yep, Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words a day; that’s it. I think the key is consistency, and 500 words a day add up fast, especially if those words are as good as Mr. Hemingway’s.

To put my own spin on it, my goal is a minimum of 2,000 words a day, same as one of my favorite writers, Stephen King. Since I started doing this full time in June, I’ve been pretty consistent, enough to finish one novel, a good portion of a second, and a bunch of short stories and articles.

Do you have a daily word count goal? If so, which writer’s routine from the article does yours most resemble?

The Quotable King: Ten Pages a Day

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, especially this one, then you know I’m a big fan of word count goals. I like watching the words add up in my spreadsheet, and I find having that kind of concrete, tangible goal keeps me motivated, and, most importantly, keeps me writing.

My goal is 2,000 words a day when I’m writing a first draft, and I use that goal for a number of reasons, one of them being it works for one of the most prolific and successful authors on the planet. Here’s what he has to say about it.

“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.”

—Stephen King

King is talking about writing on one project every day, and I tend to write something other than my current big project on the weekends. That said, the concept still applies. Case in point, I’ve been working on the WIP for just over two months, and I have 90,000 words as of today. Yeah, I know, King would have 120,000 words, but I still feel pretty damn good about writing that much over such a short span of time.

Look, I completely understand not everyone has the luxury of writing full time, but again, King’s method still works. So you can’t write 2,000 words a day; how about 1,000? Hell, maybe 500 is all you can do. It doesn’t really matter. The point is to find a number you can reliably write every day, and then—and this is the most crucial part—actually do it.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s look at the two months I’ve been working on the WIP, apply some different word count goals, and see where we end up. I’ve had roughly 45 work days to get my 90,000 words, so I’ve been pretty consistent with my 2,000-words-a-day goal. But let’s say you can only do 1,000 words a day; that’s still 45,000 words in two months, which is halfway or more to a hefty novel. And what if you can only manage 500 words? Well, shit, that’s still 22,500 words in sixty days, which means you’ve got a novel-length first draft in eight months or less. That ain’t bad.

To sum up, King’s method of 2,000 words a day obviously works for him, and, so far, it’s working for me too. But the primary lesson to take away from his quote, I think, is consistency and stick-to-itiveness. Find something you can do every day, even if it’s only 500 words. If you stick with it, if you are consistent, those words will add up a hell of a lot faster than you think.

A List of Links: Dark Markets & Tax Tips

Time for another weekly roundup of links and resources for writers and rejectomancers.

1) I’m always on the hunt for places to submit my work, and Dark Markets is a great website for finding new publishers. It is specifically aimed at horror authors, and all the markets featured publish horror or dark fantasy. Dark Markets lists publishers in five categories: anthologies, book publishers, contests, magazines, and online zines. Definitely worth a look if you write horror.

2) I love me some flash fiction, and I used to participate regularly in a one-hour flash fiction challenge over at the Shock Totem forums. Shock Totem publishes dark spec-fic, and the bi-weekly contest generally includes some horrific element, but you can write your story in any genre. The contest is pretty simple: someone posts a prompt, usually a photo or illustration, and then you have one hour to write a story of 1,000 words or less, edit it, and post it. Once the hour is up, the participating authors read all the stories and vote on a winner. The winner gets to post the prompt for the next contest. It’s a lot of fun and a great writing exercise, not to mention a fantastic story idea generator.

3) I found another useful article on cover letters posted on the Inkpunks website. It’s a great no-bullshit, direct-and-dirty article on the subject. I really dig the author’s voice, and the advice is right on the money.

4) One of my favorite writers, Dan Simmons, has a great series of essays on his site titled Writing Well. The first installment begins with the question “Can someone really be taught how to write well?” It’s a great essay, and there’s a lot of frank, objective analysis on the craft of writing and what it takes to be a professional.

5) Here’s a short article from Your Digital Publishing Cheat Sheet with tax tips for freelance writers. This is an area I’ve been researching a lot lately since I made the transition to full-time freelance. This article is pretty good place to start.

6) And another shameless plug. This time I’m going to point you all at my series of dubious advice on submission guidelines and such. They’re all under the heading Submission Protocol, but since we’re just getting all silly with links, here’s a bunch:

Got a useful link for writers? Share it in the comments.

A List of Links: Resources & Rejections

Here are more potentially useful links for the rejectomancer gathered haphazardly from across the blogosphere and beyond.

1) I recently discovered a great resource for spec-fic writers. It’s called Ralan’s SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza, and it’s a little like Duotrope in that its a listing of markets for writers. It’s specifically focused on spec-fic writers, though, which makes finding a market a little easier. I found a couple of new markets here (well, new to me) in both the pro and semi-pro payment tiers.

2) Lewis Editorial, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite editorial blogs, posted a very useful glossary of common publishing terms and definitions. Handy if you’re starting out in self-publishing or traditional publishing.

3) Here’s a great how-to article on cover letters from the submission guidelines of the excellent speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons. I mentioned this article in my own post on the subject, but it’s so damn succinct and useful, it deserves another shout out.

4) This post by Vicky Lorencen on her blog Frog on a Dime is one of the funniest takes on handling a rejection letter I’ve come across in a while. The post is not really aimed at the rejected writer, it’s for folks dealing with the rejected writer, and it even comes with a form you can fill out and give to friends and family.

5) Now for a shameless plug. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve likely seen the interviews I do with various working authors under the title Ranks of the Rejected. These interviews feature some great insights on rejection from authors who know a thing or two about it. If you haven’t read them yet, here’s your chance, and I’m gonna go ahead and leave you bunch of links right here:

Got a useful link for writers? Put it in the comments.