Friday, December 27, 2013

Ten Goals for the New Year

I saw a friend in Facebook with some interesting goals for the New Year, so I thought I might make up a few. One of his was to get one of those Shriner cars with a helicopter blade on top. He can't afford one, so he was planning the theoretical heist. I helped. (Writers can do that without getting arrested.) I pointed out that right in the confusion before or after a parade was the best time. A clown costume could get him in and out without suspicion. Of course, then he had to add "Learn to ride a unicycle" to his goals. Small price to pay for a dream.
Here's what I came up with, in no particular order. I'll consider myself successful if I accomplish half, in addition to what life throws at me every day, but I'll still try for all ten.

  1. Write three more books: hopefully a young adult fantasy, the finale of my Jezebel series, and something brand new. The new is always the hardest, more dangerous, and most exciting.
  2. Get my son through hip surgery safely and with decent grades and happy, which is why I aimed for only three books not four like normal. He's going to be in a wheelchair for six weeks. We're not sure when it's going to be scheduled yet. I think we've had three rounds of X-rays, a computer gait analysis, and a CT scan so far.
  3. Improve my hit ratio with books. Only about half hit the top 100 lists and pay for themselves. About a sixth don't even sell copies every month on Amazon. This means getting feedback from a content editor early so I can change stories if one isn't likely to pan out. It may also mean paying for more marketing.
  4. Sign up for new health insurance. My two-year HP retirement benefits run out at the end of August. I can either pay for double coverage starting in March or pay the full amount to continue HP coverage for four months. Obamacare makes it possible for independent writers to see doctors!
  5. Read four new authors. This is harder than it sounds. With my glasses problems, I only read about 20 a year and most of those are from old favorites or shared with my family. I want to start with the author of "Fight Club", Chuck Palahniuk. Since my early sci-fi has been compared to the Canadian Cory Doctorow, I thought I should find out why.
  6. Create my first audio book (while the kids are at school). It takes about two hours of total silence to generate one hour of story. I even bought the equipment for it already, and Tammy has volunteered to do women's voices. I should do so soon to ride the current wave, but I want to have quality. I also want to make all that time count. Part of me wants to advertise "Foundation for the Lost" to increase its popularity. Another part wants to do Jezebel to boost my biggest money earner and the one most likely to be purchased.
  7. Finish importing all my cassette tapes from the 80s into itunes, including converting the .wav files to mp3 for the first ten albums I did. Twice in the last year, I wanted to listen to a given song while writing a particular scene. However, this is tedious. I'll need to download new software and buy a tape player that doesn't hiss. Then I need to spend hours editing the albums into songs with Audacity.
  8. Buy albums from four new artists. Again, difficult. I have about 4000 tunes in my collection, 980 in my current writing playlist. However, I don't want to become a barnacle and become stuck in the 90s.
  9. Surprise my wife with a romantic gesture once a season. This is difficult because she doesn't like me to kill plants unnecessarily, and we don't have family nearby to watch the kids. She knows me well enough that this is even harder. I also admit to being a complacent. This means I have to make it a point to put forth the effort. She's worth itl.
  10. Apply to teach at the local college. After the surgery but before signing up for insurance for next year. Notice this is pretty low on my priorities. As a retiree, any task that takes over 20 minutes of work I don't enjoy goes to the "later" pile. Hmm. That list it pretty long now. I could be an instructor for math or computers, but secretly hope to teach writing. This won't happen, which is another reason it's on the bottom. It's a scientific fact that only three people in any math class actually want to be there.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Family Film Reminders

I recently spent two full days dubbing five years of microcassettes onto DVD for my Dad's Christmas gift. Watching my children again reminded me of many things I had forgotten.

  1. Young children are incredibly enthusiastic. When my son opened his third birthday presents, everything was the best, and he was so grateful. That excitement didn't begin to diminish until his first school bus ride at age five.
  2. Bath time was play time. They seemed to have more toys in the tub than the rest of the house. I was particularly fond of the rubber ducky cover for the spigot.
  3. My daughter loved to dance, even as a baby. She would bop to the rhythm of a basketball or 80s music. Dancing with the Stars awed her.
  4. Firsts are fantastic: walking up a staircase, playing in snow, building a block tower taller than yourself, or climbing a ladder to your fort with your loyal puppy.
  5. Jumping is fun: leaves, sofas, trampolines, or your new big-boy/girl bed.
  6. Newborns have a different cry for each thing they need and train parents to tell them apart. One of them is "I dropped my binkie". We often referred to Mean Mr. Gravity, a young child's nemesis.
  7. Spontaneous laughter is contagious. Giggles that well up from a child spread to everyone. Anything can start it, from a feather duster sword fight to a belly zerbert. My daughter had several laughs as well. My favorite was on we called the pirate laugh.
  8. Children are kind and believe easily. I played with my kids with a cat puppet and a doctor kit. They talked to the puppet as if it were real, calming its fears and making sure it was healthy. Imagination is contagious as well.
  9. School holiday presentation are an hour of sitting for five minutes of your child. Everyone has a moment, but you have to be present to win. Meanwhile, cheer for everyone else's moment. My son was so proud of winning best costume as a penguin that he wore the same outfit for the next five Halloweens. Tammy eventually had to make him a bigger one.
  10. My wife, when I managed to catch her on camera, was really cute. I could see her glow whenever the kids ran up to her for a hug or she handed out a Christmas present. I'm really lucky.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book 4 of Jezebel Released: Approaching Oblivion

I'm really excited by the release of the latest in the Jezebel's Ladder series. Last one, Sanctuary, hit a top hundred Amazon sci-fi list after the first week. Approaching Oblivion hit three lists on day three. Thanks so much to people who continue to read. I tried to pack Oblivion with drama, humor, science, and action. Enjoy.

Book five should be the finale in the series. I'll probably open with a couple childhood scenes on the spaceship. Then the astronauts go back to a strange and potentially hostile Earth. There will be a lot of discussion about companies copyrighting human genetic enhancements. I'll also have fun with media as a tool for social change. I may even have male on the cover for the first time. (Someone wanted me to put Herk in a Hawaiian shirt on this cover)

The main character so far is Stu. He will feel like a demigod in the starship, but be a fish out of water on Earth. After having a long crush on Mira, he's going to fall head over heels for the aura of his primary opponent for control over the incredibly powerful Fortune Enterprises--Mira's biological daughter. She starts out mildly evil, but there will be enough hit squads and double-crosses that she'll figure out old-fashioned Stu is the only one she can trust. I'll have fun with parents being almost the same ages as their children due to space travel.

Right now, two stories are wrestling in my head. While I'm brainstorming Jez 5, I am also writing section 1 of the YA fantasy "Behind the Walls of Sleep"--Winter. It's flowing well, and I've had the idea lodged in my brain for over 30 years. Maybe getting the first 17K words to a content editor in the next week or so will help me decide which novel to focus on for my St. Patrick's Day cover and line edit slots.