2021 in Review

2021: the year the pandemic raged on, I struggled through it like everyone, and read some big, chonky books. Looking back over the year, about 1/3 of what I read was over 500 pages! I did read some good books though and I’ll be catching up on my reviews in 2022. If you missed my last post, my goal this year is to return to weekly postings here on the blog.

HOW MANY BOOKS READ IN 2021?

–35 books

FICTION/NON-FICTION?

–  25  Fiction /    10 Non-Fiction

MALE/FEMALE AUTHORS?

–    12  Male /   12 Female

OLDEST BOOK READ?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)

NEWEST BOOK READ?

Slushpile Memories: How NOT to Get Rejected by Kevin J. Anderson (August 26th, 2021)

LONGEST BOOK READ?

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (908 pages)

SHORTEST BOOK READ?

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman (32 pages)

ANY IN TRANSLATION?

Not this year!

BEST BOOK READ IN 2021?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

MOST BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOK IN 2021?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

MOST SURPRISING (IN A GOOD WAY!) BOOK OF 2021?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I would consider myself a fan of Leigh Bardugo, but until this year I’d only read her Six of Crows duology. I had heard some negative things about her first series and thought I might find it lacking after Six of Crows. While it wasn’t as good in my opinion, it did have all the signature aspects of her writing that I enjoyed with the duology: a strong voice, good banter, intriguing worldbuilding, and great pacing.

MOST THRILLING, UNPUTDOWNABLE BOOK IN 2021?

Origin by Dan Brown. In the latest Robert Langdon thriller, I was reminded why Brown is a master of this genre and why The DaVinci Code became a global phenomenon.

BOOK THAT HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON ME IN 2021?

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman. The delivery of this poem during the inauguration was just phenomenal. I’m excited to see what’s next for Gorman.

BOOK THAT HAD A SCENE IN IT THAT HAD ME REELING?

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. This book has some really tough scenes in the middle. Pretty much every trigger warning you could have is encompassed in this book. Still, it is a stunning book and if you can depictions of physical violence, sexual violence, death, and racism, I would highly recommend the read. It didn’t win the Pulitzer for nothing!

BOOK I MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2021?

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years and finally got to it.

MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTER IN 2021?

Amos from The Expanse series. I read 3 of these books this year. And then Vataea the vicious mermaid from All the Stars and Teeth.

HOW MANY RE-READS IN 2021?

None!

BOOK I READ IN 2021 I’D BE MOST LIKELY TO REREAD IN 2022?

On Writing by Stephen King

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHORS I DISCOVERED IN 2021?

James S.A. Corey, Shelby Mahurin, Adalyn Grace, Matt Haig.

MOST BOOKS READ BY ONE AUTHOR THIS YEAR?

A tie: 3 from Leigh Bardugo and 3 from James S.A. Corey

FAVORITE COVER OF A BOOK I READ IN 2021?

FAVORITE PASSAGE/QUOTE FROM A BOOK I READ IN 2021?

“The only way to learn is to live.”

– Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

DID I COMPLETE ANY READING CHALLENGES OR GOALS IN 2021?

No. I read A TON of chunky books this year which slowed me down and kept me from hitting my goal.

BOOK I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAITED UNTIL 2021 TO FINALLY READ?

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about The Expanse book series and tv show. Definitely really enjoying this one even though this is probably the most hard sci-fi series I’ve ever read (even if the authors don’t think they’re hard sci-fi themselves lol).

FAVORITE BOOK OF 2021?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

An early winner from 2021. Short and easy to read, I highly recommend it!

The 10th Anniversary of Isle of Books and a Pandemic Writing Update

This month officially marks TEN YEARS of Isle of Books on the internet!! It’s crazy to think I’m still here, holed up in the same corner of the internet – and even crazier to think how much my life has changed over the last ten years.

Thanks for being here and reading – some of you have been around from almost the very beginning.

This year, I posted very little. The least amount of any of the years this blog has been up. Like much of the world, the pandemic yanked my life off track in weird ways, while accelerating it in other ways. I’m still reading, still writing, still life-ing, but the blog sort of fell by the wayside.

While thinking about exactly how to get this blog going again, I realized I haven’t given a real writing update here in a long time so it seems fitting to close out the year with that and talk about my plans for 2022.

Since the start of the pandemic (March of 2020 in California), I wrote a lot. Some creative people struggled to create anything. I, on the other hand, benefitted immensely from the lack of activities and social obligations.

In the last two years, I’ve managed to complete:

-1 Novel

-2 Novellas

-6 Short Stories

This not only seems like an astronomical output for someone with a full-time job, it is one. Since late summer when it dawned on me exactly how much writing I’d gotten done in a short span of time, I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down. It’s created a weird sort of adjustment period that I’m still finding my way through. Sometimes it leaves me cranky because there’s too much life-ing and not enough creating happening. But as I’ve learned more than once, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. As much as the world tells us to embrace “pushing our limits” and “breaking outside your comfort zone” sometimes limits exist for a reason. Know them, interrogate them, and honor them if they make sense.

It’s not all bad though. Due to this accelerated output, I’ve learned some things about my process that will serve me well in the future. I’ve learned that if I do a good outline before I start, the first draft comes out very clean. However, I should always leave ample time to rewrite the ending as sticking the landing is something I struggle with uniformly. Plotting just ensures I have good bones and plenty of tools to work with for round two.

Perhaps most importantly of all, I finally feel settled in my own voice. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. And that makes the game easier, when you know what you need to compensate for and where you can take your foot off the brake.

Sitting down to write now is like settling into a well-worn and well-loved chair. Like coming home again. So, while I realize I need to course-correct, I’m also grateful for this time that led me to so many new conclusions about my style and my process.

Me with a few of the publications that contain my stories which were all published over the last ten years. More to come in 2022!

I’m excited to see what’s ahead for 2022 and how my writing continues to develop. This year will be a very exciting one on a personal level (I’m getting married in October!) so slowing down will not only be a good idea, it will be necessary. All that said, I’m hoping to complete the draft of another new book by the end of 2022. Maybe squeeze in a few short stories if I have time. We’ll see!

I’m also planning to get back to weekly posting. I think I can manage that so long as I don’t overcomplicate it (I’m great at overcomplicating). So expect more book reviews, more writing updates, and more literary fun on Isle of Books as we step into the next ten years of this blog!

I hope this new year brings you good news and better adventures. Happy New Year!

“Pour One Out” to Be Published in DreamForge Anvil

I’m super excited to announce that I will have a new story published next year in one of the 2022 issues of DreamForge Anvil.

“Pour One Out” was inspired by the birthday trip we took to Belize in January 2020 (just before the pandemic shut the world down). It features a down-on-his-luck travel show host who has one last chance to find a lost treasure that’ll put his show on the map and fulfill the dying wish of his close friend. However, he’ll soon find out that the treasure is more than just legendary- it’s said to be guarded by a shapeshifting jaguar.

This story took a village to complete and I’m so, so grateful to not only Scot Noel for taking the story, but also to Wulf Moon and my cadre of beta readers who helped me get this one to its final form (Kristin, Alex, Eli, Austin, Tyler, and Brian). Thank you all!

New Story in Slippery Elm – Available Now!

Happy Monday friends! A couple pieces of writing news for me:

-First, I got my copies of the new issue of Slippery Elm which contains my short story, “Cold Bluff.” If you haven’t read my other published work because it sounded too dark or too scary, then this is the one! It’s a lovely little contemporary fiction short about an old man who gets drawn into a mystery when a lone white horse wanders onto his property. You can buy a copy of the new issue here.

-Second, my new, unpublished novel called “Death Rides in Autumn” won the Southern Pen Bookshop First Novel Award from the Southeastern Writers Association! I’m so excited about receiving this award which was based on the first chapter and a synopsis of my book.

-Third, I also entered my flash fiction piece, “Uncanny” in the Microcosm Awards and it took 3rd place!

-Finally, just another reminder the Halloween sale for Cursed Collectibles is still going on! This anthology contains my story, ‘The Garden Party,” and lots of other stories about haunted antique store finds, collectible items, trinkets, and more. The Kindle edition is available for just $0.99 and the paperback is on sale too! Click here to grab a copy if you haven’t already.

Halloween Sale for Cursed Collectibles!

Long time, no blog! Definitely working to get back to posting more regularly. I’ve still been reading, just not reviewing anything. Looking forward to getting a few reviews up here before the end of the year. And I have some project updates to share about my writing, including a recent research trip to South Dakota!

First up though, Cursed Collectibles is now on sale for Halloween! If you’re looking for something spooky (but not too frightening) this collection of original short fiction pieces should do the trick! The Kindle edition is available for just $0.99 so it’s definitely worth picking up a copy to put yourself in the Halloween mood. This deal ends 11/1/21!

Cursed Collectibles contains my short story, “The Garden Party,” which is about a couple whose already rocky relationship is tested by a visit to a weird antique store.

About Cursed Collectibles:

Spend an afternoon antiquing and it’s not hard to figure out why picking has become one of America’s fondest pastimes. It’s treasure hunting while connecting with history. But what if those treasures hunt us back?

From old books, to vinyl records, antique mirrors, vintage figurines, or a Bob’s Big Boy piggy bank, curses have no limits.

Featuring stories from D.J. Butler, Joy Auburn, Martin L. Shoemaker, Jessica Guernsey, John D. Payne, Jen Bair, Karen Pellett, Steve Ruskin, Tanya Hales, Lauren Lang, Frank Morin, Mike Jack Stoumbous, Kelly Lynn Colby, Jace Killan, Jo Schneider, Gama Ray Martinez, Martin Greening, Chris Abela, A.J. Mayall, Heidi A. Wilde, Shannon Fox, Lauryn Christopher, and Mark Leslie.

Get Your Copy Here

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Wins Colorado Book Award

I’m excited to announce that Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem won the 2021 Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology!

This anthology came out last summer and contains my short story, “Hyde Park.” It’s about a young writer-director who’s keeping a monstrous secret about his overnight Hollywood success.

This is such an amazing anthology full of delightful stories, the recognition is definitely well-deserved. It contains twenty-three stories celebrating monsters and the movies from authors Jonathan Maberry, Rick Wilber, Brendan Mallory, Ryan F. Healey, Hailey Piper, Julie Frost,  Karina Fabian, Charles Maclay, Jesse Sprague, Kevin Pettway, Luciano Marano, Linda Adams, Cindy Hung, David Boop, Phyllis Irene Radford, Andrew Hearn, B.D. Prince, David Gerrold, Ben Monroe, Shannon Fox, Steve Rasnic Tem, Fran Wilde, and Sam Knight.

This anthology was produced by a cohort of Publishing MA students from Western Colorado University. Published by WordFire Press, it was edited by Kevin J. Anderson.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this fantastic project!

If you haven’t purchased a copy yet, click here to get it.

And if you want to get two books for the price of one, Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem is part of a special pre-order promotion from WordFire Press – click here to take advantage of that offer before July 1st, 2021!

About Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem:

Lights! Camera! Monsters?

Sometimes you go to the movies. And sometimes, the movies—and their monsters—come to you. At any moment, without notice, monsters once relegated to the screen become a reality. Aliens and demons, dragons and ghosts, werewolves, vampires, zombies, and seemingly ordinary people who are just plain evil.

Join award-winning authors Jonathan Maberry, Fran Wilde, David Gerrold, Rick Wilber and others for 23 all-new tales of haunted theaters, video gods, formidable demons, alien pizza, and delirious actors. Each story takes you to the silver screen with monstrous results. 

Funny or grim, unsettling or cozy… You’ll laugh! You’ll sigh! You’ll scream!

Grab popcorn—and good running shoes—and enjoy the show.

New Story in Particular Passages – Available Now!

I’m super excited to share that I have a story in this anthology that just came out this week, Particular Passages! My story, “The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast” is a historical fantasy set in nineteenth-century San Francisco.

About Particular Passages:

15 Stories, 15 Authors

Down a forgotten hallway lie rooms no one has entered.

Each room contains a world waiting to be explored.

Some beautiful and full of wonder, other dark and full of terrors.

You won’t know which until you step inside.

So take a deep breath, and open the door…

Featuring stories by Elmdea Adams, Jen Bair, David Boop, J.T. Evans, Todd Fahnestock, Arlen Feldman, Shannon Fox, Jessica Guernsey, Sam Knight, Chris Mandeville, Kim May, John D. Payne, Wayland Smith, Stephannie Tallent, and Marie Whittaker

An excerpt from my story The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast:

“December, 1899

From his position behind the cargo crates stacked on the pier, James could just make out two men patrolling the deck of the S.S. Kingston. The rigging creaked eerily in the night as the ship bobbed on the water, occasionally obscured from view by the dense San Francisco fog. The ship had arrived from Honolulu earlier in the day carrying sugar, coffee, lemons, and the rumor of a prize that was worth more than all the rest of the cargo combined – a golden egg that had once belonged to Queen Liliʻuokalani herself.

James had watched the ship all day as they’d unloaded the cargo. And he’d observed other men peel off in pursuit of the wagons, certain the Queen’s golden egg was tucked into one of the packing crates inside. They’d never suspected that in order to keep the egg safe from thieves like them, it’d been left aboard the ship.

But James knew. He could feel the presence of gold, an insistent tug that beckoned him to come closer. He wouldn’t be able to resist its call for much longer. Nor did he want to. He didn’t plan to return home without that egg.”

Order your copy of Particular Passages Anthology on these available outlets or on Amazon today!

“Cold Bluff” To Be Published in Slippery Elm Literary Journal

Some stories take longer than others to find a home. In the case of my short story, “Cold Bluff,” it took almost two years of consistently sending it out for it to be picked up by Slippery Elm Literary Journal. I’m so stoked that this story is going to be featured in such a fantastic publication! A friend had their story published in Slippery Elm last year and it was such an amazing piece, I can’t to see what else had been picked up for the 2021 publication. I know it’s going to be an incredible issue!

About Cold Bluff

When a lone white horse shows up on his property, old Will Ritter finds himself caught up in a mystery that hits close to home and forces him to confront the strained relationship he has with his daughter.

I’ll share more details about when the story will be available and how you can get a copy once I know!

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology!

Last week I found out that Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology! My story, “Hyde Park,” appears in this anthology alongside 22 other stories celebrating monsters and the movies.

Edited by Kevin J. Anderson, KJA, this anthology was put together by a cohort of students in the publishing graduate program at Western Colorado University.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of the anthology yet, click here to purchase from your favorite bookseller: https://books2read.com/MonstersMoviesMayhemSF

Thanks also to Sam Knight for typing up the full table of contents of authors who have stories in this one!

JONATHAN MABERRY
LUCIANO MARANO
DAVID GERROLD
JESSE SPRAGUE
C.H. HUNG
KEVIN PETTWAY
DAVID BOOP
JULIE FROST
SHANNON FOX
BRENDAN MALLORY
LINDA MAYE ADAMS
SAM KNIGHT
HAILEY PIPER
RICK WILBER
STEVE RASNIC TEM
BEN MONROE
CHARLES MACLAY
IRENE RADFORD
JAMES A. HEARN
RYAN F. HEALEY
KARINA FABIAN
B.D. PRINCE
FRAN WILDE

“The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast” Finds a Home in a New Anthology, Particular Passages

Hot on the heels of the news about Hold Your Fire anthology release, I have another short story coming out later this month! My story, “The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast” will be included in the Particular Passages anthology.

About the Particular Passages:

Down a forgotten hallway lie rooms no one has entered. Each room contains a world waiting to be explored. Some beautiful and full of wonder, other dark and full of terrors. You won’t know which until you step inside.

So take a deep breath, and open the door…

My historical fantasy is set at the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco and features a thief on a quest to steal a golden egg that is rumored to have belonged to Hawaii’s Queen Liliʻuokalani. But he’ll discover the egg is more valuable than he could have ever imagined…

I’m excited to share this story with you later this month when the anthology comes out! It’s one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written, though it certainly took a while to find a home for it. However, I could not be more grateful and stoked that this is where it ended up. Special thanks to James Sams for doing all the heavy lifting on this and putting it together!

Other authors with phenomenal stories in this anthology include:

Elmdea Adams, Jen Bair, David Boop, J.T. Evans, Todd Fahnestock, Arlen Feldman, Jessica Guernsey, Sam Knight, Chris Mandeville, Kim May, John D. Payne, Wayland Smith, Stephannie Tallent, and Marie Whittaker.

If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Particular Passages, click here.

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Hold Your Fire Anthology Now Available!

I’m excited to announce the book Hold Your Fire anthology is out today on AmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo

Hold Your Fire is available for purchase in hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats. 

I have two stories in this anthology, “Hyde Park” and “White Feather.” They’re both stories that arrived on the page pretty much fully formed and while they’re very different in tone, I think they fit the theme of the anthology very well.

Proceeds from the sales of this anthology go to fund scholarships for Superstars Writing Seminars, which you can read more about here.

About Hold Your Fire:

Creativity comes from many places, but often the initial spark of inspiration can be traced to something or someone who challenged us to first put pen to paper or brush to canvas, to pick up a camera, to look at the world with new eyes. Maybe it was the lyrics of a favorite album. Maybe it was the encouragement from a beloved teacher. Maybe it was seeing a wonder of the natural world.

Maybe it was just a feeling deep down inside that demanded to be set free, a voice ready to be heard, a story begging to be told.

Hold Your Fire is a collection of nineteen short stories celebrating the power and influence of inspiration in all its forms—art, literature, music, astronomy, science, inventions, epiphanies.

Here you will find stories of people being inspired as well as stories of people inspiring someone else. Stories not only of artistic inspiration but of scientific discoveries. The “Eureka!” moments that change the whole world and the small moments when someone dares to fight one more day.

From a romance about a teenager’s attempts to win over his first crush with poetry to musicians and artists harnessing the inspiration of unexpected muses to a fairy tale princess seeking for happiness, every story in this anthology shines brightly. And since every fire casts a shadow, there are also a few horror stories that thrive in the dark.

We also received some exciting early reviews and press about the anthology which you can check out in my last post here.

I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy!

Order from Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

Order from Kobo

Hold Your Fire Anthology Available for Pre-Order

I’m excited to share that the Hold Your Fire anthology is now available for pre-order! Right now just the ebook links are live, but the paperback and hardcover should be up soon!

I have two stories in this anthology, “Hyde Park” and “White Feather.” They’re both stories that arrived on the page pretty much fully formed and while they’re very different in tone, I think they fit the theme of the anthology very well.

This is a cool project because the proceeds from the anthology sales go to fund scholarships for Superstars Writing Seminars, which is a fantastic fiction writing conference held annually in Colorado Springs. The next one will be in 2022 due to the pandemic, which means we have even more time to fund the next round of scholarships for the conference!

About Hold Your Fire:

Creativity comes from many places, but often the initial spark of inspiration can be traced to something or someone who challenged us to first put pen to paper or brush to canvas, to pick up a camera, to look at the world with new eyes. Maybe it was the lyrics of a favorite album. Maybe it was the encouragement from a beloved teacher. Maybe it was seeing a wonder of the natural world.

Maybe it was just a feeling deep down inside that demanded to be set free, a voice ready to be heard, a story begging to be told.

Hold Your Fire is a collection of nineteen short stories celebrating the power and influence of inspiration in all its forms—art, literature, music, astronomy, science, inventions, epiphanies.

Here you will find stories of people being inspired as well as stories of people inspiring someone else. Stories not only of artistic inspiration but of scientific discoveries. The “Eureka!” moments that change the whole world and the small moments when someone dares to fight one more day.

From a romance about a teenager’s attempts to win over his first crush with poetry to musicians and artists harnessing the inspiration of unexpected muses to a fairy tale princess seeking for happiness, every story in this anthology shines brightly. And since every fire casts a shadow, there are also a few horror stories that thrive in the dark.

Right now, there’s also a cool pre-order promotion going on from the publisher, Wordfire Press! When you pre-order Hold Your Fire by February 18th, you can go here to submit your receipt and get a free ebook of the Dragon Writers Anthology.

We also received some exciting early reviews and press about the anthology which you can check out in my last post here.

I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy!

Pre-Order from Amazon

Pre-Order from Barnes & Noble

Pre-Order from Kobo