2012 in Review

2012TextYep, it’s that calendar-driven excuse to look back and take stock of what we’re doing. Lots of stuff happened in the world, but I’m not here to talk about that. It’s my blog, after all, so I’m going to focus on me!


I started the year with three goals:

  • Self-publish two novels
  • Write two new novels
  • Blog consistently

How did I do? Eh… decently. I didn’t get everything done, but I got further than I’ve ever gotten before.

On the publishing side, I put out my first book, Beneath the Sky. I had originally given myself three months to do it. Alas, it took four, but at least one month of that was me thrashing about trying to figure out the process. I never did get the second one out. Originally, that second one was going to be my first fantasy novel, Hell Bent, but I think I’ve decided to launch my Father Chessman series first (Ships of my Fathers, etc). While I did get that one out to beta readers this year, it hasn’t progressed beyond that.

On the writing side, I wrote another draft, but only one draft. My original goal had been to crank it out in June and July, but it ran into troubles, and I didn’t finish it off until mid-November. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t get that next novel published, and it’s also why the second one didn’t get written. Still, this was the fifth novel-length work I’ve done, so I’m no longer intimidated by the sheer scale of writing a book.

As for the blog, I haven’t been perfectly consistent, but I did pretty well. My original schedule was for three posts a week, which would come to 156 entries in total. I did around 135, so that’s about 85%. Probably the thing that hurt me the most was not getting them written in advance. When that happened, there usually wasn’t a posting that day. Still, I’ve gotten pretty good at getting them done in advance and scheduled to drop in the morning automatically. What, you didn’t really think I was up blogging at six or seven in the morning, did you?

There were two other interesting milestones that I passed this year. The first one is about my sheer word count. I’ve heard an old adage that every writer has a certain number of words of crap that they have to write before they get to the good stuff, usually something on the order of 500,000 to a million words. It’s really just another way of saying that writing fiction well requires a lot of practice, so we have to be patient and do the work, but putting a number on it at least makes us feel like there’s a finish line.

Well, this year I crossed the 500,000 words milestone. I had to count all my short fiction from way back as well as the 70,000 words from that novel I abandoned years ago. (Note: this only counts words of fiction, not emails, letters, or blog entries.) My total is now around 560,000.

Maybe that means I’m finally writing the good stuff now – which, ahem, does little to recommend my already published novel Beneath the Sky – or maybe it means I’m still only halfway there. With the ease of word processors, perhaps that number does need to be pushed all the way to a million. But wherever that mythical finish line is, 560,000 words of fiction is a lot. That’s like 1800 pages in book form.

WordOverWarcraftThe second milestone was an odd one, and it came with little warning. After years of writing, MS Word rose to the top of my start menu, finally displacing World of Warcraft as my most frequently launched program. We always talk about making time for writing by cutting back on other things like TV, games, and various social commitments, but it’s rare that we get an external validation that we’ve succeeded at that effort.

So strangely, that has meant more to me than publishing that first book, and it has stuck with me. Every time I go to that start menu, I see a reminder that now I am a writer.

How about the rest of you? Did 2012 bring anything special to your lives?

The Apocalypse Ends Today, Almost

MayanCalendarNothing is going to happen today. Except, of course, that something is going to happen today, and that is why all this Mayan calendar insanity will regrettably soldier on.

If you’ve been blissfully unaware that the world is supposed to end today due to some old Mayan calendar having the equivalent of the Y2K event, then skip this and go on with your merrily unharried life. Even if you do know, I’m not going to try to convince you that it’s not going to happen. There are plenty of debunking sites out there that will tell you 1) how ridiculous it all is, and 2) how they actually have the date wrong anyway.  On the other hand, if you actually believe this nonsense, why are you wasting your last day on Earth reading my blog?

And while part of me is looking forward to laughing at the true believers of the Mayan apocalypse, I’m also dreading what tomorrow will bring. Why? It’s not that I dread the world’s existence. It’s that I dread all the various things that will happen today being pointed to tomorrow as what the whole Mayan calendar was really predicting.

You see, not all of the true believers are predicting an end to the world. Some of them are interpreting this Mayan math as a signal to some other world-altering event. We’ll be contacted by the ancient astronauts, or perhaps we’ll all ascend to some higher plane of existence, or even more far-fetched… Paris Hilton will join Hugh Hefner in a vow of chastity. While that might be the end of the world for Hugh Hefner, these kinds of predictions leave the rest of us still standing. And since there will be hundreds of thousands of newsworthy events today, there is plenty of material to work with.

First, let’s talk about self-fulfilling prophecies. I fully expect that somewhere today, someone is going to blow something up. We might also see another mass-suicide doomsday cult. We’re also probably due for some kind of threat, perhaps some kind of attack on infrastructure or public places. Oh, and I imagine there a few thousand press releases queued up to be unleashed today. None of these have anything to do with what the Mayans were thinking about, if they were even thinking about anything other than, “We’ll all have upgraded calendars by then.” No, these events will all be about someone being stupid and/or evil and picking this date to do it, just to cash in the hype.

Closely related will be some staged events. The great prophet of New Maya will ascend today, or something like that. Far more likely is that he’s slipping away to Peru with embezzled church funds, leaving behind disappointed followers and an IRS investigation.

Random occurrences are harder to dispute. We might see a major melt event on this first day of Antarctica’s summer. There might be the start of a large forest fire somewhere. A world leader might keel over with a heart attack. A lot of random things happen every day. Today will be no different, so there will be no shortage of things for a true believer to point to and say, “That’s what it’s all about – don’t you see?” I can’t do much more than shake my head and point to the sheer randomness of it.

But the most annoying will be those small events that we cannot yet see their significance. These could be tiny things like some newsworthy birth or the discovery of yet another exoplanet. Even worse, these could be things that are so trivial as to have escaped the news altogether, with the faithful clinging to the notion that all will reveal itself in time. And to them, I say fine, believe what you want to believe. Just don’t expect me to get all excited about it.

So, stuff is going to happen today, but about the only thing I can tell you for certain is that we won’t be done with this Mayan calendar insanity in the morning.

Hugos, Hardcovers, and E-books

The last time I read a Hugo-nominated book in time to vote for it was 1997. I read three of five that year, including the winner Blue Mars, by Stanley Robinson. My vote had been for Holy Fire, by Bruce Sterling. While I liked Blue Mars, it bored me a little while Holy Fire grabbed hold of me and would not let go. Starplex, by Robert J. Sawyer, was the third one I’d read, and while it was interesting, it didn’t really do much for me. So, if I liked two out of three, why don’t I read the Hugo nominees every year?

Because to read them in time to vote means reading them in hardcover.

That hasn’t always been true. A few times the publishing schedules would work out so that the paperbacks came out in time to be read over the summer, but often enough, they came out too late to do me any good. Certainly, I’ve gone back and read a few, years later, but not in time to be part of the Hugo decision.

So, what do I have against hardcovers?

Most people would say cost, but that wasn’t it for me. I’m hardly made out of money, but a book provides hours of entertainment, and on the dollars-per-hour scale, even hardcovers do better than a trip to the movies.

No, for me it’s the qualities of the physical format.

  • I don’t like the actual hardness of the cover. It makes it harder for me to grip.
  • I don’t like the larger size. It’s hard to take with me, so it stays by the bed.
  • I don’t like the weight. It makes it hard to hold in bed or closer than my lap when sitting.
  • I don’t like the art jacket. The book is always slipping out of it, and it’s always getting torn, unlike the sturdier art-surfaces of paperback covers.


All in all, my reading enjoyment is seriously impaired by the physical qualities of a hardcover book. More than once, I said I’d be willing to pay a hardcover premium for an early-release paperback, but no one ever did. So I slogged along, waiting for the paperbacks. In the rare cases when I simply could not wait, I struggled through the hardcover, but it was always with the intent that someday I would replace it with a paperback in case I wanted to reread it.

Then, last year, I bought a Kindle. As I explained before, my reading experience on my Kindle is as good as a paperback, and in some ways, it’s even better. It’s light, durable, and small. It rests comfortably in my hand, and it goes places where even paperbacks were left behind.

So now I find myself looking at first-run e-books, and instead of squawking at their high cost, I recognize that they have finally provided me with a chance to pay that hardcover premium for an early-release paperback. I no longer have to wait a year to get the book in a format I enjoy reading. I can get it now at the click of a button.

So with no small irony, I realize that next year’s Hugo awards will be given out in San Antonio, at the first WorldCon I’ll be attending in over a decade, and once again, I’ll have a chance to vote on the Hugo award for best novel. The books that will be on that ballot are coming out this year, and thanks to my little Kindle, I could be reading them right now!

So, what are they going to be? I know Scalzi has a new book out called Redshirts, somewhere between military SF and Star Trek spoof. David Brin has been pushing a first contact novel titled Existence. Iain Banks has a new Culture novel out, and Jim Butcher will be releasing the next Dresden Files novel later this fall!  (Ahem, please pardon the fan-boy squee.)

What book are you dying to read this year, even at first-run prices?