Read/Write Upate: 2023


2023 wasn’t a big year for word count, that’s for sure. I didn’t really do anything that I’d planned on for the year. For one thing, I failed NaNo – breaking a two-year streak.

 For another, I didn’t actually work on anything new all year. Instead, 2023 was a year for revisions, a trend that will continue into 2024. NaNo 2023 was an attempt at a rewrite of Veil.EXE, my 2019 NaNo-winning urban fantasy horror LitRPG novel. I thought I was prepared for this, after working on extensive notes and a new outline earlier in the year.

It wasn’t enough. Striking the right balance in keeping the parts I think worked and building new structure to cover the holes is rough, uncharted territory for me. It may be that this sort of revision is a bad fit for the NaNo structure, or it might just be I need more practice, but either way, I ground to a halt on realizing that part of my planned fixes didn’t quite work.

Plus, my heart wasn’t really in it. Right up until November 1st, I’d been focused on a different project. Which brings me to the one big new development in my writing in 2023:

I completed a revision of The Mycospex, my tragic lesbian fungal witch novella, and submitted it to an SF/F magazine.

Then I threw a party to celebrate my first official rejection letter.

And almost immediately started revising the story again.

It’s amazing how much even a form-letter rejection can make you look at something fresh. I thought I was pretty happy with it when I sent it out, and it got thumbs up from my critique group – in fact, it go actual explicit ‘you should submit this to this market’ urgings. But that official email had me hip deep in edits in an instant.

 Depending on how you count it, I’m now a little over halfway through the third or fourth revision of the story now. I’m hopeful that it will be complete in early 2024, and tentatively plan to hire an editor and use it to dip my toe into self-publishing. At ~33k, it should be easier (or at least less intimidating) and less expensive to take through that process than a full novel. Finding someone to publish it would be even better, but placing novellas is hard, and I think it has enough appeal (and is good enough) to be worth putting out there regardless.

I’m trying to get myself off on the right food with this post, setting aside writing time on day 1. I don’t have any particular word count goals, but writing some amount as many days as I can is definitely a focus for 2024.


According to my Kindle app, I hit 135 titles this year. Factoring in a couple of physical books, lots of web serials, and a few manga series, it’d probably be fair to call it 150 novel-equivalents for the year. It’s inflated a little by the type of stuff I was reading – lots of popcorny pulp genre fiction in there, some smut, etc. I’m taking some steps to add roughage to my diet, so to speak, in 2024 – among other things, I’m committing to reading every new issue of Uncanny. But there are a few books I read in 2023 that I want to talk about briefly:


Wistful Ascending: A Superhero Space Opera Fantasy, by J.C.M. Berne (Hybrid Helix #1). A biracial superhero war hero/criminal tries to atone for his mistakes and build a new life on a sentient space station. It’s a sharp, thoughtful take on everything I loved about Invincible, and I tore through all four books of the series in one week.


Into the Labyrinth, by John Bierce (Mage Errant #1): A coming-of age magical academy saga featuring young people making smart, hopeful decisions in the face of adversity. Not that there’s any actual shortage of magical academy stories you can read instead of that one, but I enjoyed this series quite a lot, and if you want a new scratcher for that itch, it’ll certainly do ya.

Near Miss:

Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros (The Empyrean #1). My sister recommended this BookTok darling to me, and in fairness, it’s quite well-written on a technical level. It was hornier than I expected, but that’s fine – and more about what I expect from my sister than what I expect from a book. What really threw me, though, is the tonal dissonance. This is a book written like a fun, sexy fantasy romp, but the actual events are darker than your first tiefling rogue’s backstory, and depicts literally the worst/most ineffectual military academy I think I’ve ever read in fiction. I don’t think I’d trust anyone who came out of this hellhole with a Taser and the security of a dive bar, let alone a fire-breathing dragon and the safety of a country. The fact that none of their grueling physical training included “how to not fall off a dragon in flight” is just the icing on the cake.


Waybound, by Will Wight (Cradle #12): Will Wight has done the impossible: He brought a 12-book progression fantasy to a satisfying and definitive conclusion. It’s not a flawless book, but sticking the landing on something like this is an incredible achievement, and it means I can wholeheartedly and recommend Cradle to anyone who might be interested in magical kung-fu anime novels. It might be the longest novel series I can recommend without reservation or caveats, actually.

Classic Spotlight:

The Silver Eggheads, by Fritz Lieber: This is a blast from the past, a book I plucked from my dad’s bookshelf when I was in grade school. It’s dated and uses some potentially problematic language, but it also feels deeply relevant to this year’s biggest tech and writing conversation: AI and LLMs. Sci-fi being what it is, Lieber was almost certainly thinking more about prevailing editorial and publishing trends at the time, but his wordmills are nonetheless quite prescient, the underlying social issues are evergreen, and he’s one of the greats for a reason. Also, it’s *possible* this book was more personally formative for me than I’d have ever thought before this reread…

Near Miss (But Also The Most Important Book I Read This Year?):

The Sword of Kaigen, by M.L. Wang. I’m late to the party here, but this one came across my feeds with nigh-on frothing recommendations. And it’s good! It’s very good! We’ve got awesome mystical swordfighting, a real-feeling treacherous political landscape, and hard-hitting family drama. This is a book that I deeply want to love and recommend, but have to hang a caveat on. 

What’s really interesting, though, is that this caveat makes it a stronger recommendation to anyone who is interested in the craft of writing. This is a book weighed down by its own ambition – something that M.L. Wang has, with incredible bravery and transparency, admitted to and written about. The Sword of Kaigen is described as a stand-alone novel, and it is. But it’s also subtitled as “A Theonite War Story”, and there is no Theonite War series.

There are hooks for a whole other series spread throughout TSoK, and the ending clearly wants to entice you to read on. But there isn’t a series to read on into, and there may never be one. That hurts to see. It’s scary, as a new writer – to see someone so excellent at the craft of writing admit that they couldn’t do what they set out to do, and to have an artifact of that be a part of the public record. But I think it’s an incredibly important lesson – not that you shouldn’t have that ambition, but that you shouldn’t let ambition trick you into writing a weaker book than you could have. These loose threads are the only criticisms I have for The Sword of Kaigen! It has everything it needs to be a 5/5 book – but it also has these vestigial organs that it doesn’t need.

Life Highlights:

Wasteland Weekend 2023: 

This was my second year attending the five-day Mad Max campout in the Mojave, and I went hard on it – with great results. 

I bought a beat up old truck, made it look even more beat up, and went on a solo road trip down the coast. I visited family and family-friends on the way, had an amazing time bartering leather goods, winning the traditional category of a homebrew mead competition, and participating in the end-of-weekend car parade at the event, and visited Vegas for the first time on the way back.

Gotta say: I had way more fun gambling caps at Wasteland than I did gambling money in Vegas. I plan on going back to Wasteland in 2024 (and even checking out a new local post-apoc event); I’m in no hurry to ever return to Vegas. I did really enjoy the Cirque shows and all-you-can-eat sushi, though.

Not Getting Laid Off:

I dodged the bullet twice this year.

House Siding and Windows:

Unlike my kitchen remodel, I just paid for this. It was just in time, too – they pulled some pretty damaged T-111 off the house. I’m very glad to have those areas fixed, and with a proper vapor barrier and hardiplank in place, I shouldn’t have to worry about the siding again for a very long time. With the windows also replaced, my utility bills saw an immediate drop compared to previous years.

That said, I’ll be paying this off for a couple years, and need to start saving for a new roof, so… time to get my budgets back under tight control in 2024. I’ve gotten a bit cavalier as a childless bachelor, and that isn’t gonna fly going forward.

Best Concert: 

K.Flay & Grandson. I didn’t see a ton of shows this year, but this would have been a highlight in any year. I’ve seen both before separately; together they were really something special. The vibes from the crowd were immaculate throughout, dancing and singing along to damn near every song, even during the intermissions.

K.Flay didn’t miss a beat despite having lost hearing in one ear, bringing big energy and big feelings to a nicely balanced set. Grandson had a lot to say about his community and the chemistry between the two both between songs and during their duo performance of Zen was a delight. 

Oh, and I was lucky enough to catch one of the bottles and get to spray the rest of the crowd during Blood//Water. Good times.


  Weight loss didn’t happen in 2023, unfortunately. I got down to ~215lbs and then backslid to about ~225lbs, which makes it a more-or-less net-zero year. 

But! It’s been clear this year that my composition is better than it used to be, and I’ve started to like what I’m seeing in the mirror a lot more. In August, when I was 215lb, I finally got a Dexa Scan done for the first time, which was really cool. It reported back at 22.8% bodyfat. That’s still higher than I’d like, but it’s better than the 30+ I used to be. That put me at ~165lb lean mass, which means I don’t need to get any lighter than 185.

 A few years ago I would have said 165 was the goal if I was just losing fat, so that’s pretty great. FFMI isn’t totally accuarate at such a high bodyfat%, but at somewhere around 25-26 depending on what we mark for height (my drivers license says 5’8″, but I think 5’7.5″ is actually pretty generous already), it’s still a very encouraging note and really confirms what I’ve been thinking/seeing in terms of body composition: Compared to 5 years ago, I’ve definitely put on a significant amount of muscle mass.

I also broke into the 1000lb club on my powerlifting total this year, with 1RMs of 465lb on deadlift, 275lb bench press, and 365lb squat.

In 2024, I’ll again be trying to get that bodyfat percentage down to the 10-15% range; I’d also like to hit 500lb on deadlift, 315 on bench, and 405 on squat – and if I manage that, inching my way up to a 1250lb total might be in the cards in the next 12-18mo as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *