Accomplishments, 2014 edition

Writing:

  1. I published two novels: Crashpoint and Twistpoint. I was trying to publish 3 books in one year, but Chokepoint didn’t make it. It will be out early this year, I hope.
  2. I learned a lot about working with freelance editors, book publishers, scheduling and timelines. If I can only publish 2 novels instead of 3 per year, that drastically extends my schedule of book publishing until I’m about 60.
  3. I achieved my goal of writing over 300,000 words. About 192,000 were original fiction, the rest were editing/rewriting of books in the editing stages. That includes 3 novels and a handful of short stories.
  4. Craft-wise, there are a number of things I learned about myself that I’m either trying to capitalize on or correct. Excessive use of pronouns, proofreading, flat characters, and shrugging are things to correct. Dialogue, how I build a story layer by layer, and work ethic are things I feel pretty good about.
  5. Business-wise, this year was a learning year. I’ve never published a book before or handled the business aspects of doing so. I learned things like you need to send 2 copies of your print book for copyright, the e-book is not sufficient.
  6. Marketing-wise, I did almost none. I’m not paying attention to number of copies sold, or pushing the book. They are not bestsellers and I haven’t made more than the weakest of attempts to market them. There are a number of reasons for this that are intentional. Marketing will come later, when at least Chokepoint is published. So far I haven’t found much in the way of marketing that works better than writing the next book.

Reading:

I read a lot of books (I didn’t track how many), a mix of fiction and non-fiction, not just sci-fi. I have tried to read more efficiently, and faster, especially when it comes to non-fiction. You could say that I am practicing badly at speed-reading. Also, I toss away all reading plans, and the TBR list when I enter a public library. I can’t help myself, it’s however many I can carry out of the damn building. And I finally read To Kill A Mockingbird, at my daughter’s insistence. Surprisingly, it’s not a how-to guide, and has nothing to do with Hunger Games.

Day job and family:

Not going to talk about them. This isn’t that kind of blog, and there are plenty of parties in both of those realms that don’t want me to say anything, good or bad, about them. Suffice it to say that both realms are just fine and there’s much I am thankful for and happy about.

Other stuff about me that you may want to know. In 2014, I:

  1. Visited Spain, France, and Italy.
  2. Upgraded the Lair a little (mostly lighting, also added another toy Enterprise).
  3. Developed a fierce green tea habit (3-5 cups a day, usually sencha green tea).
  4. Built a ton of Star Wars and superhero Lego sets.
  5. Finished a few video games (but not Total War: Napoleon).
  6. Saw a bunch of movies, Guardians of the Galaxy being the best.
  7. Ran in the cold (<55 degrees) and my lungs didn’t become frozen sponges.
  8. Didn’t get to some blog posts about wonky stuff that I planned.
  9. Eased past the first half of my expected life span of 82 years.

What about 2015?

I’ll outline my New Year’s Adjustments in a future post.

My newsletter may improve your memory

UPDATE: I’m reposting this because I had problems with connecting to the various social media outlets.

The Scoop, my newsletter, is now open to subscribers. The link should be right over on the right-hand side. It will include the news about all things having to with my writing projects. This is stuff for true fans:

  • discounts and special offers
  • inside info on what I’m writing and where things are at
  • recommendations for related or similar fiction and nonfiction
  • behind the scenes
  • cutting edge productivity and life hacks that feed into my fiction at some point but may be of use to people. Hint:

There’s three hitches I must warn you about:

  1. You will peer into my brain; you have been warned
  2. I may screw up this newsletter, or the subscriber list, since I haven’t done this before
  3. If I don’t get at least 10 subscribers, no newsletter. Because it won’t be worth my time to do it.

Crashpoint (Kagent Series: #1)

The-Crashpoint-Cascade-1600-Barnes-and-Noble

You can now order the e-book or paper edition of this fine science fiction novel from these stores (more are coming soon):

The synopsis:

In the 24th century, the solar system is bustling with advanced human societies. But on poorer, balkanized Earth, towns struggle against depopulation and refugees flee from ethnic, economic, and education cleansing.

The home planet’s only bright spots are the cosmopolitan cities that trade offworld. But nonviolent terrorists called Stabilizers despise offworld influences and want to impose a slower-paced, low-stress lifestyle. They make prosperity appear suicidal by stealthily destroying a city’s economy and government with weaponized social epidemics.

Offworld Kagents project a future where the Stabilizers crash Hamilton, Illinois, and all civilization follows. With time running out, they recruit bounty hunter Nick Lincoln and his uncanny analytical abilities to find a future where Hamilton survives. But when Nick discovers how to stop the Stabilizers, he learns a secret about them, the Kagents, the projections, and himself which will change everything.

If you like the sample, buy the book. If you like the book, tell others who you think may like it.

Level 40

I just leveled up to 40.

Being 40 years old is a big deal. Anyone who pretends otherwise is kidding himself or herself. Some people dread it, some people love it. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little of both. What can I say, my 30s were pretty damn good.

Forty is roughly halfway to the average life expectancy for a guy like me: age 81. It’s mid-life. I’ve already outlived about 5% of other men born in 1973.

The older I get, the more I consider life to be like a role-playing game. You start gaining XP as a baby. You add skills, more XP and grind your way through relatively mundane training (finger painting, elementary school). Eventually you choose a class (job) and realize/choose an alignment (personality) and that is primarily how you are known. You also acquire gold, upgrade your equipment and possessions and grow more powerful or skilled in your class.

Some people have taken this to an even more practical extent. In case you’re wondering, I don’t sense a midlife crisis coming on. Those erupt when someone realizes that they don’t like their class, alignment, equipment, relationships or approaching mortality. Not me: I’m pretty much right where I want to be, give or take. I don’t feel the need to embark on an epic quest that I otherwise would never do just because my time is half gone. I’m not the climb-Everest-bucket-list type.

I have accumulated a lot of XP and developed several skills in my classes (I’m dual-classed, BTW, writer and policy analyst). My level 40 powers are pretty awesome. I have been consistently lawful good and have upgraded my possessions quite nicely since I slept on a futon-foldout chair in grad school. I think Wendy and I are close to the sweet spot of maximizing our living standards without having work consume our lives. I have contributed in some small way to the future and to others’ happiness.

Yeah, I’m a little dinged up here and there physically but am in better overall shape now than in most of the last 40 years. I plan to pour more effort into maintenance (in terms of exercise, eating and mental stability) to see if I can run this body until my grandchildren are planning their own retirements.

As for mortality, well, I realized long ago that the universe is completely unconcerned with fairness, justice or a narrative arc. Those are aspects of humanity, not of reality. On average I should expect another 40 years, but it could be over tomorrow, or in 6 months, or in 65 years for them or me. Innocents die all the time and it doesn’t matter how good you are or healthy you have been. Evil Nazi bastards in their 90s are still hobbling around Argentina while kids died in Sandy Hook last year. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

So, Level 40. Midlife. By the time you reach midlife, you hopefully should have some idea of who you are and how you want to live the rest of it. I do, but I’m not telling you the details. I don’t think of how much of my life span is gone, I think about what I can do with the other half (if I’m lucky enough to have it). Maybe it takes living for 40 years before you realize the enormity of what you can pack into that time, and what you are really suited to do in that time.

Adventure on.

Creatively Celebrating Halloween

Computational demonology lab, inspired by Charlie Stross’ Laundry novels and of course, H.P. Lovecraft

My writing time usually takes a hit in the month of October because I have certain Halloween obligations that seem to grow each year. Since these are creative obligations, I like to think that they are exercising my creative muscles in different ways than writing, but that ultimately strengthen the writing as well. It’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.

Every year I create a scene in my garage for the enjoyment of trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Consider it my small contribution to keep celebrating Halloween alive and well.

It all started in 2008, when I made Harvey Dent election posters and put them on the front lawn (remember, it was an election year), and hung a giant bat symbol of light strings from the portico of the house. Then I dressed up as Batman, hid in the dark (sometimes on the portico) and scared trick-or-treaters with my Batman voice.

In previous years, I have done the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a computational demonology lab (above), and a Victorian vampire’s dining room. I have a reputation in the neighborhood now, and it must be defended. My kids are the right age that they score points with friends and classmates because of whatever production I put on.

This year, my daughter decided on the theme (pirates) while we were on vacation. She left it to me what to do with it. There are plans being assembled and supplies being purchased, I can assure you.

Here are last year’s preparations for Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

Prep for the Sleepy Hollow scene. Yes, those are actual tree branches that I used to create a forest.

I joined SFWA and I’m damn full of squee

That I attended the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association’s (SFWA) Nebula Awards Weekend last weekend is not half as important as how I attended. I attended as a brand new associate member of SFWA. Squee! Or, to put it more manly, with a clenched fist held aloft: Squrn!

That’s right, I applied for membership and SFWA accepted me right before Nebula weekend started. I met its most minimum requirements: one short story published in a qualifying market. I even went to the business meeting, waiting for the Fraud Police to barge in, declare me an imposter and prompt John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal and the rest of the SFWA Board to take turns punching me in the gut.

I am generally not a big joiner of organizations (I have a genetic defect where I attend every meeting and ultimately become the guy who does too much and burns out.) This would be only the second professional association I have ever joined.

But I wanted to join SFWA in a really bad way. It could have been that it provided validation that I am a pro writer. It could be that it gave me an excuse to hang with ‘real’ writers in my beloved genre, and learn from them. I’m not exactly sure, but it was a bucket list item and it is now crossed the hell off.

I had a great time at the Nebula Awards when I wasn’t too terrified to talk to actual science fiction stars who I have nothing to express but fanboy appreciation. Andrew Fox busted me right out of that with a ‘Hey Mark!’ and I owe him thanks. And I owe thanks to the ever-friendly Myke Cole, who subbed for Paul Krugman on a panel on economics in world-building, and not only kept it on subject, but made it a blast as only he can. I did not approach many out of sheer, shy terror. (John Scalzi and I passed one another at the Nebula Awards reception and did the nervous-mutual-nod thing, for what I bet were completely different reasons, neither of which probably reflect well on me.)

I loosened up in time for the banquet and awards, and had a great time at the banquet with RJ Anderson, Diana Peterfreund and her husband, and Alethea Kontiss, among others. Neil Gaiman, James Patrick Kelly, Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice and Alethea all made me get something in my eye with their acceptance speeches or award presentations.

My fellow SFWA members were awfully gracious when they heard I just joined up. Someday I hope to have more in common with these folks, maybe even talk to them, and perhaps view myself as an equal. I will endeavor to heed Neil Gaiman’s excellent advice and Make Good Art. But for now, I am proud, and full of squee (I mean squrn – yes, I just made that term up).

I will be at the Nebulas

I will be there, hoping to learn as much and meet as many neat people as I did last year.