For many folks, this past year has been filled with doom and gloom.

COVID-19 caused major disruptions in almost everyone’s life. While I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of the pandemic and its consequences, I’ve found at least one silver lining: more time to work on my writing.

Instead of bemoaning my lost opportunities—I was really looking forward to presenting at the Lakefly Writers Conference, the Fond du Lac Area Writers meeting, and other events—I choose to instead focus on my 2020 accomplishments:

Selena Nelesti, red-robed wizardess, half-petrified and standing before a crescent moon

1. Published Magic’s Daughter in paperback and e-book

While subscribers to the Radish serial fiction app got a sneak peek at this fantasy novel last year, the story made its mainstream debut in March, making Magic’s Daughter the seventh book in One Million Words’ catalog.

2. Enjoyed an artist retreat with my wife

Steph and I spent a week at a cozy, mostly secluded inn before the coronavirus came on strong. Though I didn’t do any writing, I exercised some seldom-used creative muscles by working on digital art and, in the evenings, sketching together.

3. Wrote a play

When challenged to write a three-person play for Fond du Lac Community Theatre, I tackled a timely topic that struck close to home: “The Battle for Bandwidth.”

4. Managed to attend 4 events

The Downtown Fond du Lac Chili Crawl crept in right before the pandemic, and when numbers were looking better in the late summer, I peddled my literary wares at the mask-mandatory Main Street Market. Additionally, I enjoyed my first virtual events, participating in the Waukesha Wrimos’ Day of Writing Dangerously and the North Fond du Lac Wordsmiths’ November meeting.

5. Wrote a couple of guest blog posts

In addition to the monthly articles on my own website, I had the privilege of sharing two guest posts this fall, “Cultivating a New Fantasy Creature” and “Why YA Fantasy?”

6. Provided beta-reading feedback for two Allied Authors

One of the perks of being in a writers group is having access to prereaders that can identify problems in a book prior to publication. The flip side is I’m happy to help them in return—and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a final copy of Charming and Lovecraft: The Great Tales!

7. Made the front page of my local newspaper

This is admittedly vain, but it brought a smile to my face to see Magic’s Daughter as the main feature in the Action Advertiser. Print media ain’t dead, folks, as evidenced by how many congratulatory messages I received from those who saw it.

8. Wrote and led 2 homebrew Dungeons & Dragons adventures

Though this isn’t directly tied to my One Million Words publications, I had a lot of fun plotting out “Murder in Bur Hollow” and “Who is Jasper Cobbletrue?”—and even more fun seeing how my family reacted to the various twists and turns.

9. Commissioned my daughter for character art

As I was finalizing my second novel for release in 2020, a YA portal fantasy, I knew I needed some fun graphics to complement the amazing cover. I tapped my teenage daughter for character art, including the above rendering of the Fosyth for one of the aforementioned guest blog posts.

10. Created copious pixel-art assets for a webcomic

I’m nowhere near as good an illustrator as Gwen, but I did have a lot of fun tinkering with pixel art, a medium that leverages both left-brained mathematics and right-brained imagination. In my spare moments throughout the year, I created the setting and (too) many characters for my upcoming webcomic, Curmudgeons & Flagons.

11. Wrote 11 short stories

In spite of earlier claims that I can’t write short stories and in preparation for next year’s anthology, I pushed myself to pen (OK, type) 11 short stories, including eight in an eight-week span. They are:

  • “Gamechanger”
  • “Reputation: A Tall Tale of Altaerra”
  • “Epiphany”
  • “Anthropology in Apogee”
  • “Flesh and Blood”
  • “The End”
  • “Suspect”
  • “Dead Magic”
  • “Captive”
  • “Unparalleled”
  • “School Spirit”

cover for Gamechanger

12. Celebrated Reader Appreciation Day

I get a kick out of doing something special every September 13th, a day I arbitrarily deemed Reader Appreciation Day. This year, I polished my first short story of the year, created a cover for it, and made it available as a free e-book. You can still get “Gamechanger” here!

13. Made my first foray into traditional publishing

It dawned on me not too long ago that my inclusion in Mirrormaze: A Dreampunk Anthology marks my advent into traditional publishing. The collection, which includes my short story “Drifters”—a tie-in to The Soul Sleep Cycle—was published by Fractured Mirror Publishing earlier this month. You can buy it here!

14. Started selling at a local book market

“Where can I buy your books?” is a question I get a lot. While some folks are happy to shop online at Amazon, others prefer a more hands-on retail experience. Fortunately, an amazing indie bookstore opened up in downtown Fond du Lac this past fall. Lunar & Lake Book Market carries all of my paperbacks, books by other local authors, and a wide array of new books produced by publishers big and small.

modified cover graphic for The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot

15. Published The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot in paperback and e-book

One Million Words, my indie publishing company, released its eighth book in early October: The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot. This YA portal fantasy novel was a whole lot of fun to write, and I’m so glad the rest of the world has a chance to tag along with the teens of Good Company on their first real quest.

16. Made my first book trailer

Did you know book trailers are a thing? Or maybe they aren’t anymore. Regardless, I wanted to try something new to promote The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot (LToSL). Check it out below.

17. Started a YouTube channel

The aforementioned book trailer forced me to create a YouTube channel, something I’d been avoiding for some time. I can’t guarantee I’ll have regular updates, but at least I have a place to host my LToSL promo and the occasional event—and my online Dungeons & Dragons appearances.

18. Created a fun quiz to promote LToSL

What better way to introduce readers to the cast of my latest novel than to create a super-trendy online quiz. That’s right; by answering a handful of questions you can see which member of Good Company you are most like. Bonus points if you get Tom Foolery.

19. Published my first audiobook

I had high hopes going into 2020, thinking I might be able to transform all three entries in The Soul Sleep Cycle into audiobooks. When that proved too expensive, I decided to work with a professional narrator and producer to get Magic’s Daughter onto Audible’s virtual shelf. Check it out here!

20. Laid the groundwork for a fantastic 2021

I can’t imagine next year will be quite as productive as 2020 was, but I’m excited at what lies ahead for One Million Words. I’ve eagerly mapped out my to-do list for the next 365 days or so. Here’s a little of what I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  • Debuting the Curmudgeons & Flagons webcomic on 1/1/21 (follow me on Facebook or Twitter to catch the first issue)
  • Publishing a short-story collection in paperback and e-book this summer
  • Working on and, hopefully, publishing a d20 tabletop game inspired by the characters of The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot
  • Narrating and producing an audiobook version of The Lost Tale of Sir Larpsalot on my own—maybe
  • Researching and possibly even starting to work on my big project for 2022: a work of interactive fiction that could end up being a text-based game about superheroes

I wouldn’t be surprised if something else popped up. You know what they say about the best-laid plans, and I can’t promise a spontaneous desire to pen (OK, type) the sequel to Magic’s Daughter or a completely knew scheme won’t usurp priority away from something else.

I suppose that’s what makes the future—and speculative fiction—so exciting: anything can happen!