Read/Write Update: 2021

A quick overview of my year in reading and writing. I’m actually hoping to make smaller updates in this format on a more or less monthly basis. But I promise nothing.

2021 in Reading

According to my Kindle app, I read a whopping 170 titles in 2021.

On the one hand, that includes every volume of Shaman King, a good handful of very short Kindle Unlimited picks, and a small scattering of books that I didn’t actually finish.

On the other hand, it doesn’t include any of the serial webfiction that I read. So it’s probably a fair overall indicator of how much recreational reading I did.


I’m not really here to do book reviews – though of course I reserve the right to shine more detailed spotlights on books and series in the future. These are not being presented in order, and this is not an exhaustive list of what I read in 2021, let alone what 2021 had to offer – just a few that I particularly enjoyed, remembered, and want to highlight.

Standout Novels:

I don’t think I need to explain the idea of a novel, do I? I hope not, because I’m not going to.

Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – A dark, richly detailed take on the secret magical academy, prophesied Dark Ones and Heroes, and figuring out how to make your life something worth living. I also read the second book, The Last Graduate, in 2021; I’m happy to recommend them both together. These were incredibly fun to read, and I’m looking forward to #3.

The Blackwing War, by K.B. Spangler – An incredibly cool and emotionally rewarding mix of magic, space travel, and political violence. I understand there’s a related book out and more coming, but this works well as a standalone too – a truly beautiful book.

Reaper, by Will Wight – Book 10 of a series I’ve been devouring from the beginning, and an incredible series of payoffs that tie together threads from the beginning and set the stage for a grand finale. High-flying fantasy combat in an extremely cool and well-developed world – and not a single one of the ten has been anything but wildly entertaining and solidly paced.

Standout Serial Fiction:

Reading serial webfiction can be quite a bit different from reading novels. There’s changes in pacing built around the writing and upload schedule of the author. It’s common for a serial webfiction to be the first thing the author has published, or close to it, and for there to be minimal editing performed. I tend to make allowances for these, as long as they are doing something interesting; I also pick up and drop new ones fairly casually as my interest is piqued and wanes. My standout picks are two that I think were consistently entertaining and of high quality in the last year.

The Daily Grind, by argusthecat – In progress for ~3 years – A very cool, stylish twist on urban fantasy dungeon-diving. It’s expanded from the original ‘Office Space meets Labyrinth’ foundation to include a lot of neat ideas and consistently shows a lot of heart, and is building up an interesting mythology for itself along the way.

He Who Fights With Monsters, by Shirtaloon (Travis Deverell) – In progress for ~2 years – An often-humorous, always interesting portal fantasy with light game-like elements. It handles action, progression, and the human, emotional cost of epic magical adventures with equal adroitness (and perhaps a few more classic TV references than strictly necessary for character development). I believe early volumes of this are now available as novels on Kindle with some editing.

Standout Short Fiction:

Generally speaking, I don’t read a lot of short fiction. But if you think I’m going to miss such an obvious chance plug my friend and critique-group-mate’s work…

“As the Sea Drinks Our Salt,” by Amelia Fisher; published in Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, edited by dave ring. Dark secrets and an a deadly foe threaten the bond between a pirate captain, her crew, and her ship’s witch; but even darker magics might yet see through… I had the honor to get to see an early version of this wonderfully gruesome little tale.

2021 in Writing

I spent most of the year struggling with Startenders, my 2020 NaNoWriMo attempt. As much as I love the premise (it puts a smile on my face even now), I just couldn’t seem to make consistent progress this year. After hitting 18k in November 2020, I only managed to get it to about 29k words in total before officially hitting the pause button in October. I’m not giving up on the project by any means – but for now, my liquor-powered magical girls are very much on the back burner. Good thing gin, vodka, tequila, and absinthe don’t really expire…

With Startenders on pause, I went into prewriting for NaNo 2021 – which I used to start work on the sequel to Mantra, tentatively titled House of Rogues. Despite not having quite managed to pin down an outline before November 1st, changing gears paid off in wordcount. With encouragement and camaraderie from the Power of the Pen meetup group, and thanks in very large part to a simultaneously grueling and delightful weekend retreat with my critique group immediately following Thanksgiving, I managed to flop across the 50k finish line a few hours before the cutoff.

I didn’t write in December at all. Whatcha gonna do? That leaves my total for fiction writing at a modest 61k for 2021. I’ll take that, even if House of Rogues is currently suffering from extreme pacing issues and will be in dire need of a rewrite when and if I manage to finish the thing.

Finishing the first draft of House of Rogues will be my writing goal for 2022, with a target pace of ~15k per month from January through October. That way, even if it comes out more than twice as long as Mantra, I should still in theory be done before NaNo. I would also like to take time to revisit Veil.EXE for a rewrite/editing pass, and of course, Mantra is going to need major work once the first draft of House of Rogues is done… But hey, one thing at at time.

Leave a Reply

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