2015 In Review, and 2016 Goals

calendarpagesMy overriding goal for 2015 was to get books out the door. I actually made a lot of progress, but I don’t have much to show for it. I did put a story out in a Christmas anthology (Demon’s Delight), but that is my only publication this year. That story is something of a prequel to my urban fantasy novel Hell Bent, but that hasn’t been published yet. Mostly, it was a year of editing, but I’m mostly done with two books. Hell Bent is back from the copy-editor, and I’m working on the cover and production now. Debts of My Fathers (the very-long-awaited sequel to Ships of My Fathers) was just handed off to the copy editor today. So while I say I made some progress, I ended the year with the same number of books in the queue as I had at the beginning of the year: six.

2015 was also the second full calendar year that I’ve been suffering from this chronic back pain. Specifically, I have two herniated discs on either side of the T7 vertebrae. I had a total of four cortisone injections, but they were not very effective. I did a lot of physical therapy. It improved things, but I kind of plateaued with merely moderate chronic pain instead of severe chronic pain. As a result hitting that wall, the physical therapy folks kind of fired me. Looking back on it, I think I hit the wall because they weren’t pushing me hard enough, i.e. the necessary strength training wasn’t using enough resistance to get the results they wanted. So, I’m looking at physical therapy again with an eye towards pushing to more strength training.

2015 was also the year that I caught a lucky break and found almost-but-not-quite-yet colon cancer while it was still in the PREcancerous stage. Had I not been suffering from all the chronic pain and doing lots of extra tests because of it, we would not have seen this for another 3-4 years, by which time it would have been stage-3 or stage-4 cancer. The doctors were able to excise it with clean margins in a fairly simple operation that only kept me off my feet for a week or so.

And 2015 was another tough year for me and my special-needs kids, especially with my oldest son. We’re now getting additional help from the state and county organizations, and I have hopes for greater levels of intervention in 2016.

So, my goals for 2016 are about the same as my goals for 2015: Get Books Out The Door! I think I have a much better chance of achieving that this year though. Two books are approaching the finish line, and then I have the rest of the year to do more. I’ve been heads-down on getting Debts handed off to the copy editor, so I have not yet done proper planning for 2016, but it’s quite conceivable that in addition to Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent, I might also get their sequels out before the end of the year. So after a couple of years with virtually no publications, I might manage four books this year. But like I said, I haven’t done proper planning for the year yet.

Still, I can confidently state that I will get Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent out this year, probably in Q1. I’ll make another post later on once I’ve sat down and planned out the rest of the year.

Moving Right Along

It’s been another month, and things are moving along. I handed off all my stuff for the Christmas UF Anthology today, and I’ve reviewed and approved some of the Hell Bent copyedits as part of that since the anthology will include an excerpt. Of course, none of that matters to you folks who have been waiting for Debts of My Fathers.

So at this point, the deck is clear for Debts of My Fathers. I’m not going to do another round of beta readers at this point. I think I’ve fixed the main issues raised by the first round of beta readers, and I’m just going to have to believe that my fixes are good. I still have a few details to hammer out, and then I’ll do the language pass where I look out for my problematic words and phrases. As each book goes forward, I’m catching more and more of these, and the most recent, “towards”, was caught by my copyeditor for Hell Bent. So anyway, I’m pushing towards that and then handing it off to the copyeditor sometime next week. At least, that’s the plan. It might need through next weekend as well, but as I’m already on Plan G, I’m trying to avoid Plan H. I still think I’ll get it out this calendar year, but it’s going to be tight, particularly on the cover.

I also have the final art for the new Beneath the Sky cover, so I’ll be pushing that out soon, but to be honest, it’s taking a back seat to my edits to Debts of My Fathers.

When it does finally go out the door, I will be sure to send email out to the list, so sign up if you want to be notified.

As for my health, October was a really painful month with extra stress to my back from stuff around the house plus two business trips.  It’s gotten some better in November. The pain is still there a fair amount, but the back spasms have mostly stopped, and they were the source of the worst pain. That is, the steady state pain is in the 5-7 range while the spasms took me up to 9 and a little beyond. I haven’t passed out yet (the definition of 10), but I have seen stars.  We’re running a few more tests, and I’m meeting with surgeons, but that’s mostly to confirm the non-surgeon opinion that the herniated disc is not operable.

Progress on Debts and the Possibility of NaNoWriMo

I’m finally making good headway on the edits to Debts of My Fathers. I’m behind schedule again, but I’m moving quickly at last. My target is to get it to the state of its second Beta by the first of November. I have a punch list of things to address, and I’m working my way down that list. Still, my goal of December looks more like January now, which will suck. But we’ll see.

Part of what’s driving me towards getting those edits done by November is that I’d like to take a stab at NaNoWriMo again this year. I don’t think I’ll be properly starting from scratch, though, but I do have an unfinished project that could use another 50,000 words. It’s the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer, and I won’t take Hell Bent to the polish stage until its sequel is at least first-draft complete.

Still, Debts is my primary goal. If I get beta-reader feedback before November is up, it will take priority over the draft of Stone Killer. If I can get Debts polished by the end of November, then depending on the copyeditor’s schedule, a late December release is still a possibility.

In other news, my back is continuing to give me a lot of pain. The doc has me on anti-inflammatory steroids at this point. They’re helping some, but it’s a matter of dropping the pain from a 10 to an 8. Which is to say, when it seizes up, I can now sometimes keep my eyes open as I scream. Not fun, but I guess it’s something.

End of July Update

CalendarObliqueThe numbers sucked, but they’re not the whole story. I only wrote about 30,000 words in July, with about half of that on social media. There’s probably about another 5000 words in there that didn’t get counted, and I’ve got some edits underway for Debts of My Fathers.

The bulk of that 5000 words is some world-building. As I’m working on the edits to Debts – and after completing the drafts to the third book, Oaths of My Fathers – I’ve realized that there are some history elements that I want to include in Debts so that it’s not all backloaded into the final books. That also means finally converting some of the back-story elements from vague ideas into more concrete words. I need to confirm a couple of dates and numbers, but then the brief histories of the Republic and the Confederacy will turn into a series of blog entries here.

I’m also making some improvements in my health. I’ve been back on the treadmill pretty regularly for about a month now. Quite some time back, I started on a project to walk a thousand miles. Both for my back and because of a history of anxiety and depression, I need to be walking more, some of it brisk cardio and some of it slower. Well, with some other problems and distractions (including a treadmill that had so many defects that it was eventually replaced by the manufacturer), that’s been a slow trip. However, I’ve been going well the last month or so, and if I can keep it up this month, I’ll pass through the 500-mile mark in early September.

I’m currently hoping to get Debts of My Fathers out in December. It still needs a lot of work, but at least now I have a good plan for what that work needs to be and how to get it done.

I also have to admit that yesterday’s apparent suicide of Robin Williams hit me kind of hard. I don’t feel like talking about my own bout of depression today, but it reminds me that life is painfully short, and that I don’t want to get to the end with nothing to show for myself.

In other news, I’m getting ready to rerelease Beneath the Sky with a new cover. It’s a significant improvement, but I might still revamp it again down the road. I’m also hunting for a cover artist to do the rest of the Father Chessman series. I’m reasonably happy with the cover for Ships of My Fathers, but I don’t think I’m capable of what’s needed for the rest of them.

I suppose I should also say something about the whole Amazon-Hachette thing, except to say that I don’t really have a lot to say that is my own. I’m not really on anyone’s side, except to say that Amazon has treated me better than Hachette, Patterson, Turow, or Preston ever have. I think I’m far better off with Amazon than I’d ever be with Hachette, and in that world-view where everyone else is Just Like Meyou’re probably guilty of this as well – I think most of Hachette’s authors would be better off on their own. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this pricing dispute between Amazon and Hachette, but it doesn’t predispose me towards Hachette or those shilling for it.

In the meantime, I’ve got books to write and kids to raise.

End of May/June/Q2/First-half Update

CalendarObliqueGolly, I’ve been quiet here lately. Mostly I’ve been heads-down, focusing on this new job. It’s not that it took all my time, but it definitely left me scrambling about, trying to find new ways to manufacture writing time. (FWIW, the answer is at least partly “additional child care”.) Anyway, something had to go, and when it came down to blogging vs. working on new novels, blogging got put down like a rabid dog.

Hmm, my brain apparently thinks it still has fictional people to kill.

Anyway, I have been making progress on fiction. Today I finally finished the draft to Oaths of My Fathers, which is book 3 of the Father Chessman saga. I always like to write the sequel to a book before I do my final edits, so that means I can now go back to work on Debts of My Fathers, which a number of fans have been… well, pleasantly insistent that I finish off and get into their hands. So, that’s coming. I’ve missed three announced release estimates in the past, so I’m holding off on dates for the moment.

Anyway, let’s look at the numbers. In May and June, my writing rate was down significantly. In May, I wrote only 20,918 words, and in June, only 33,443 words. This is down from around 50,000 words a month towards the earlier parts of the year. For the year, I’m at 239,682 words, which now has me on a track to come in under 500,000 words. Again, blame the job. On the other hand, my autistic kids now have good health insurance, so yay!

The words were split similarly to earlier in the year, except that I’m doing more private journaling. It’s not that I’m having lots of deep thoughts. Rather, I’ve found it’s a good way to warm-up my brain for writing narrative. I can do free-form writing for five to ten minutes, and then I’m up to speed on turning thoughts into written words. If I go straight into the narrative, that can sometimes take twenty to thirty minutes, and lately, twenty to thirty minutes is all I can grab in one slice.

So, I’ve thought about trying some blogging here as part of that warm-up rather than strictly doing private journaling, but I cannot do the kind of blogging I used to do in that format. Specifically, I had been doing defined slots. Monday was an article about something in the SF/F genre. Wednesday was usually writing-related, even if it was just to say that I was neck-deep in bloody edits. Friday was reviews. As you can see, I haven’t been managing that very well this year.

So I’m giving serious thought to going free-form. There are a number of things I could talk about, but I frequently don’t. Either they didn’t fit into a slot, or they touched on the unholy trinity of blogging flame: politics, religion, or … Hmmm, I can seem to remember the third. It seems like there should be three. Anyway, rather than dash something off, I’d spent almost as much time convincing myself not to write it, or at least not write it for the blog.

That may be changing soon.

I’ve long been a fan of John Scalzi’s blog, “Whatever”. First, he does have good content, but mostly I admire his willingness to blog about, well, whatever. So, when I say I might be looking to his blog for inspiration, it’s not that I want to copy his style or his topics. It’s that I want to feel more free to blog about whatever strikes my fancy and not censor myself so much.

I do this knowing that I’m more likely to attract some annoying flame-puppies or haters, but I’m all right with this. I’ve long been a believer that blogs are different from shared public forums. They are not the town square. Blogs are the author’s living room, and I have always believed that in my house, it’s my rules. So I won’t have Scalzi’s Mallet of Loving Correction, I have no qualms about using the tools at my disposal. Hopefully, such incidents will be mercifully rare.

So that’s it for now. There will still be articles on things in the SF/F genres and writing/publishing news, and I will continue to post reviews. But they’ll be mixed in with a bit more what’s happening in the world around me.

Mid-April Update

Wow… not enough writing so far this month! I’ve been doing a lot of travelling – 3 trips in the first 15 days. I did manage to get some writing on the one trip that was on a plane, but no writing while driving!

I also have two bits of news – one of which is pretty good for me, but bad for my fans, and the other is good for my book, but also bad for my fans.

News #1: I have been offered a programming job, and I have accepted it. I don’t want to say too much right now, but it’s work I would be good at, on a problem I enjoy, for good money. The bad news for my fans is that this is going to reduce the number of hours I have for writing. I absolutely intend to keep writing, but I don’t have new goals/forecasts yet.

News #2: The initial feedback for Debts of My Fathers is mixed, but from some of it at least, I am considering a major revision to one of the plot-lines and one of the characters. In the end, I think these changes will be good for the book and the series, but the bad news is that a May release is now pretty much impossible. It looks like June now.

I’ll be able to say more in another week or two. Right now I’m scrambling around trying to find my Social Security card to finish off my I-9 form.

End of February Update

CalendarObliqueI’m two months into the year and doing that accountability thing against my goals for the year. Also, by coincidence, this is my first real post for the relocated blog.

So, for the big writing/publishing goals, it’s been a so-so month. In February, I wrote 55,192 words and “published” 15,826 of them. Let’s break it down.

Email/journaling/private: 3755 words. This was mostly email, but it did include the notes for an award presentation I did back at the beginning of the month.

Blogging/social media: 15,826 words. The bulk of this was over on Google+. The blog here had a lot of downtime while I managed the move. Part of this was that I didn’t want to stack up a lot of “scheduled” articles when I wasn’t sure when the move was actually going to occur, but mostly it was just that blogging fell off the priority list.

Fiction: 35,611 words. This was entirely work on Oaths of My Fathers, which is now just shy of 53,000 words and is quite thoroughly behind schedule. My original deadline was February 24th, and then I pushed that out to March 6th, but I can’t see how I’m going to hit that one either. Missing that one is going to be very problematic, because then I slide into spring break with the kids. So, I’m still pushing on this one, but it’s getting hard.

Overall, I’m at just over 98,000 words for the year, but I should be closer to 165,000. I went into February behind because of time spent editing Debts of My Fathers, and I had hoped to catch up with the drafting time on Oaths of My Fathers. Unfortunately, that’s been slow going. The one comfort is that the problems have not been book-specific issues. That is, I’m not floundering. I know where the book is headed, and I’m not running into any big problems on the way.

No, the problems have mostly centered around some health problems with me and my kids. As I’ve said before, I have special needs kids, and this month has been more trying than most for the oldest boy. That has been quite stressful for me and has negatively impacted my own health. Anyway, everyone is seeing the doctors they’re supposed to be seeing, so hopefully we’re on the right track, but it meant there were about ten or twelve days in February where I hardly wrote anything at all, let alone whacking off 3000-4000 words on the new novel. For what it’s worth, though, three of the beta readers have finished Debts of My Fathers, and I’m trying to schedule time to get their feedback.

Published: This is the 15,826 words mentioned up top, and it’s all been social media and blogging. It meets the “get it out there” requirements of my annual goal, but it’s not the kind of publishing that pays the bills. But Debts is moving along and hopefully Hell Bent will be right on its heels, so by summer, I should be much closer to my goal.

Meet up with other writers I know online: I haven’t done much on this one this month, but I did go to ConDFW and spoke with another indie writer who is local but that I had not really talked to much before. He’s further down the road than I am with about ten books out, but he’s gotten them out in the last few years, not the last few decades. In other words, he’s had the productivity that I have not yet managed. I’m also making some progress in getting the rest of my local writing group onto Google+, which is almost this goal in reverse, but hey, it’s something.

Beef up the website: Hey, actual progress! It turned out to be about two weeks of research and emails only to discover that the move took only two or three hours of real work. The old website will continue to exist for another year or two to keep old inbound links alive, but no new contact will be posted there. Now that I’m here, I can get started on some of the improvements, including a mailing list to let you folks know when books finally get out the door.

This has been holding up a surprising number of other tasks, actually. More than just the mailing list, I’ve been waiting on this for a number of other publishing issues. Specifically, I have held off on spreading my books to the Nook and Kobo because the books link back to my website, and I didn’t want to put them out with a soon-to-be-old link. It’s also held off an updated cover to Beneath the Sky, again for the same reason. And believe it or not, it was going to hold up the release of Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent if I hadn’t gotten it done by May. So, with this big item checked off, hopefully a lot more tasks will start moving.

Improve my health: Well, shit. If anything, I’ve gone backwards on this one. However, I’m trying a couple of new medications with my doctor as well as some other changes. I also found a new chiropractor who is a lot cheaper and much easier to get in to see. After three visits, my back and ribs and giving me a lot less pain, which is amazing given that I reinjured them this month in a kid-related incident.

So that was it for February. We actually started to get some spring weather, but the occasional cold snap have kept me from reseeding the yard just yet. Hopefully, March will be warm, wet, and quiet.

Mid-Month Updates and Bloggy News

I tried to come up with a more generic and boring title for this and utterly failed. So be it.

Anyway, the blog has been kind of quiet the last week or two. Partly this is because I’ve been putting a lot of writing time into Oaths of My Fathers. It’s currently about 40,000 words long, but I’m behind schedule on it. I want to get it wrapped up in the next couple of weeks as I start getting beta-reader feedback for Debts of My Fathers. For the curious, it’s a continuity thing. Before I do the final edits to a book, I like to draft its sequel. That way, if there’s anything I need to set up beforehand, there’s still a chance to put it in.

Debts of My Fathers is vaguely on track for a May release, but a lot of that depends on the beta reader feedback. My insecure writer’s ego is terrified that the book actually sucks, that the beta readers will confirm it, and that it will require extensive rewrites. But I feel this way pretty much whenever my beta readers are reading one of my books, so it’s probably not a legitimate reason to worry. Still, it’s hard to nail down exact schedules until I get that feedback.

Hell Bent and the draft to Stone Killer are pretty much on hold. I’m focused on getting Debts/Oaths done, but once Debts goes to the copy editor, I’ll pick up on that series again until it’s time to format and publish Debts.

But it’s also been quiet because it’s been a rough couple of weeks with my kids. I don’t talk much about them, but they’re special needs kids, and it’s just been harder than usual lately. There’s some sign of improvement two or three months down the road, but unfortunately, it is predicted to be one of those times where it will likely get worse before it gets better. So, in the meantime I’m trying to look upon it as a plot twist aimed at upping the stakes before our protagonist ultimately emerges victorious.

I’m also taking a little time to move this blog to a new domain. That’s right. As part of my goals for the year, Making It Up As I Go is making way for something with a bit more of a plan. Specifically, I am attempting to migrate the whole thing, archives, comments, and all over to DanThompsonWrites.com. At the moment, that domain simply forwards back over to here, but when I’m all done the reverse will be true. I’m still working out a few kinks, but I’m hoping it will go live in the coming week. In the meantime, I’ve been hesitant to get a bunch of entries queued up – hence the quiet.

Once that’s done, I have a laundry list of little blog improvements to do that have been building up. I didn’t want to do them pre-move, so once that’s done, several of them should show up promptly with a few more dribbling in afterwards. As such, there might be a few bumps along the way, but in the long-run, it should be better.

Also, I do plan on being in Dallas for ConDFW next weekend (Feb 21-23), but I’m not signed up for any programming. I haven’t tried to get on any panels, but the general word is that it’s hard for indies to make that jump. Maybe later in the year when I have another 2-3 titles out. (Crossing my fingers…) Still, if you’re going to be there, look for the long-haired, red-bearded, kilt-wearing Scotsman. We’re only slightly less-common than a Slave Leia at DragonCon.

So, that’s it for now. See you all on the other side of the domain move.

End of January Update

CalendarObliqueI hope to be doing monthly status updates on my big goals throughout the year, both to let folks know how I’m doing and to give myself a good kick in the ass. This is the first of those updates.

First, the numbers. In January, I wrote 42,906 words, of which 10,425 saw the light of day and hence fall into my “published” category. That’s roughly half as many as I should have written and about a quarter as many as I should have published. Hmm, trying to get those to 1,000,000 and 500,000 for the year. Am I worried? Not much. The justification is in the details, so here’s the breakdown:

Email/journaling/other-private: 7344 words. Much of this is just the overhead of being engaged with life and community. Nothing much to see here. Still, that’s only about 70% the rate I predicted in my planning calculations. I don’t plan on trying to increase this artificially. These are words I kind of get for free.

Blogging/Social-Media: 12,072 words. This is split pretty much evenly between my blog here and my activity on Google+. I don’t necessarily publish much original content over there, but I tend to post a lot of long comments. This one hit my original estimates pretty much even, though I’m heavier on the social media than I originally estimated.

Fiction: 23,490 words. The bulk of this was on Oaths of My Fathers during the last week or so, currently at about 17,500, and the rest was some back-and-fill on Debts of My Fathers before it went out to beta readers. Here, I’m only at about 40%, but I knew January was going to be a slow month for new words of fiction. My initial focus was to get Debts of My Fathers out the door to beta readers, and while editing can take a lot of time, it does not add many words. In many cases, it actually cuts them down. So, while I did get to add a few words to the total during my edits to Debts, the words-per-hour was abysmal. Still, I’m ripping along through Oaths at a pretty good clip, and if I can keep to the schedule, I will actually wrap it up late in February, and that will put me pretty much on target for new fiction written.

Published: This is the 10,425 words mentioned up top, and it’s woefully lagging behind the pace at about 25% what it should be. But this one is always going to move in ragged jumps with the publication of books. I’ve pushed Debts of My Fathers one step closer to publication, so I feel pretty good here.

WinterSnowAs for the other smaller goals, here’s a quick look…

Meet up with other writers I know online: I haven’t done much here yet, but I have mostly laid out my convention schedule of the year. ConDFW in February is likely but not yet certain. AggieCon is a possibility for the first time in years, though I still have to deal with a conflicting engagement. ApolloCon is proving difficult due to child-care issues, but I think I’ve got that sorted out. ArmadilloCon should be fairly easy, but due to some other conflicts, I may only be able to do one day. FenCon is also pretty much certain but not yet nailed down. I confess that DragonCon is tempting, but I have to wait for a few other things to settle down before I can even seriously contemplate it.

Beef up the website: Nothing is visible yet, but I’ve actually been making good progress here. I will almost certainly be moving the blog within the next month to a new URL. MakingItUpAsIGo.com will forward you to the new one once it’s up and running. I already have the new URL, and I’m looking at a couple of other hosting services to see if I want to switch service providers at the same time as the move.

Improve my health: Meh, this one has gone nowhere. On the other hand, I haven’t exactly backslid either. January was a month of rolling crises here at my house, and I’m afraid to say that self-care like exercise is one of the first things that goes out the door when things get tight. Note to self and others: that’s not a particularly good strategy.

GroundHogSo that’s it for January. Let’s hope the good things continue in February and the bad things disappear like this nasty winter. So someone, please, put a shade structure over that damn groundhog tomorrow. He really needs to not see his shadow.


Day 5 of Oaths of My Fathers

Just a quick progress report.  I’m five days into drafting Oaths of My Fathers, and I’m currently about 11,000 words in, trying to reach 13,500 today.  I’m sort of behind because I started by Day 1 at about 9pm and only got a few hundred words in rather than the 3000 words-per-day target.  However, each day since then, I’ve hit well over 3000, so I am definitely on track to catch up.  Then again, weekends with the kids at home is tough.

But it is underway, and I’ve got a pretty good feel for the plot route I’m taking.  The target size is 90,000 to 100,000 words.  Ships came out to about 86,000, and Debts is currently much longer at 107,000.  My drafts tend to grow during edits as I see things that I left out the first time through, so even if I wrap up at 90,000, Oaths may very well top 100,000 before it goes out the door.