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2013 has arrived, and, like most years, was briefly new and now feels like regular old time again. I like the idea of a New Year and waiting for midnight to signal the change of our arbitrary calendar, but my life does not culminate and then begin again with the arrival of each January. Time and the things we do are more fluid and interesting than that.

That said, I decided to join the 2013 The One Million Words in a Year Writing Challenge. I have pledged to get a million words out of my skull and onto the page/screen within this calendar year. I am gradually increasing my writing output and shifting to goals that have more meaning and potential reward, and this challenge seems like a worthwhile framework to use for those purposes. This year I have a long list of writing objectives that I want to fulfill:

1) Finish at least two books: The non-fiction Travels Through Terra Ficta: Reading, Imagination, and the Fantastic, and a novel that will be an expansion of a novella that I wrote during the Clarion West Write-a-Thon last summer entitled “No Fealty But To The Wind and Sun.” I’m not sure if I will keep that title for the novel, but the theme that it expresses will be woven throughout the narrative. I have also just started writing something that I would like to make into a novel, based on, of all things, a dare on my FB wall to write about the our increasingly surveilled and controlled future. No title yet, but so far I like the ideas that I am writing down.

In addition, I am going over my SF Signals columns and deciding whether I have enough material to make a short book from the best stuff there. Ideally I would edit and expand on those and add enough new material to make the book not just a bundle of reprints. More on that soon.

2) Complete and submit 20 short stories: I have four incomplete stories in the hopper at the moment and plenty of ideas for more. My first task is to finish the incompletes and get into the firm habit of finishing stories, and then getting them out into the world to get them published. I am terrible at submitting; I have been lucky in that I have submitted four stories so far and two have been accepted (and gotten positive responses overall). This Challenge gives me further impetus to write more stories and get them on their way.

3) “The Bellowing Ogre” column: one significant change for 2013 is that I will be cutting back my SF Signal column’s output to biweekly. I love writing the column but I am at a point where I need to put my energy into the books and other writing that I urgently want to do. The column has been invaluable for stimulating my creativity and exercising my writing muscles, and I’ll keep at it, but I need to do more with my writing now that I have more confidence and skill.

4) The Blog: I am going to convert this blog over to my own domain within the next month, partly to facilitate my professional name change to John E. O. Stevens. I expect to write more often on the blog this year as part of getting those million words down, but not just to add to my word count. I need to write things that are not fiction or articles, I need to keep my writing muscles toned with a variety of activities, so expect more casual AND esoteric ruminations here in the coming months.

5) Reviews: due to ongoing health problems and ripple effects in my schedule from them I am behind on reviews but I will be catching up in the next several weeks. Of course, this means reading instead of writing, but there is no way I can write my one million words without textual nourishment. I read 29 books last year and a fair bit of short writing, and this year I hope to at least match that. Most of my reviews will appear on SF Signal but I will also do more reviewing here, particularly of short stories and non-fiction writing. Reviews are great exercises for the mind and fun to write as well, and I hope to generate more discussion here about fantastika and writing through them.

Since I last wrote a blog entry here a few lovely things have happened for me publishing-wise. My story “Between Wishes and Fire” has been published in the latest issue of Le Zaparoguewhich can be downloaded for free. An early draft of this story was a “doodle” on my Facebook wall and I was very pleased when it was picked up for publication (after some rewriting). I’ll have more to say about it in my next blog post.

Also, my story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, “The Scorn of the Peregrinator,” has been given the podcast treatment at BCS. I’m very happy with the results and I hope that listeners are too. This is a first for me and it’s both daunting and pleasing to hear someone read this story aloud.

There are other, more personal joys in my life right now, from my daughter to new options for the future, but what’s gratifying is how they feed into my ability to write, how they give me . . . not strength, but creative vitality. I feel better when I am writing because I know those joys are near me, within me, and even when I write about some poor fellow’s skin torturing him I feel both happiness and a little peace because writing is part of a life that has more promise and satisfaction in it than I have experienced in years.

This is one of several reasons why I accepted the Challenge, and why I feel good about doing it, feel that it will help me towards my daunting goals for his new, arbitrary time-span I have entered. As much as I find the New Year to not be profound, this one has genuine promise.

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