Looking back, looking forward

It’s been a good year.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I live a life of comfort and ease. I have a fine home and a wonderful wife, I’m retired at the age of 50 with enough money to do fundamentally whatever I want, and my health is excellent. I live in a wonderful town with an active community of writers. I love and I know that I am loved.

Flipping through the 2011 kitchen calendar, I see a lot of plays and movies and museum visits. We continued with yoga and our neighborhood SF book group. There was no overseas travel this year; instead we threw a big party which we called “BentoCon, a science fiction convention and square dance” to celebrate our 50th birthdays and 20th anniversary with about 100 of our friends and relatives. It was a heck of a lot of work but it was awesome. We have most excellent friends.

We did have the usual insane amount of domestic travel, including a week in the Bay Area for Fogcon and Potlatch (with a visit to Hearst Castle in between). I visited Buena Vista University in Iowa, where I spoke to the students of my old Clarion West classmate Inez. I participated in a mock battle of sailing ships. I was privileged to be invited to Walter Jon Williams’s Rio Hondo workshop, where I ate many fine meals and critiqued manuscripts with some of the finest writers in the field. I atttended Radcon, Wiscon, the World Fantasy Convention, and OryCon, and square dance events in Atlanta, Phoenix, and Vancouver BC. We took a trip to Eastern Oregon. I taught a crew of brilliant high school students at the Alpha Workshop in Pennsylvania, and was a guest pro at the Cascade Writers workshop on the Washington coast. And at the Worldcon in Reno, I got to present the Best Short Story Hugo to Mary Robinette Kowal.

As far as the writing goes… well, I’m a little disappointed in myself. Despite all the writing workshops I taught and the Hugo I presented and the interview in Locus, the actual writing and publishing didn’t go as well as I’d like. It was a year of near-misses, with “Pupa” coming in second in the Analog readers’ poll and missing the Hugo ballot by four nominations. I spent the whole year looking for a new agent and failed to snag one, despite getting >this< close with an agent who loved the book except for this one thing and then, after I rewrote it to her specifications, decided she didn’t really love it that much after all. I finished the first draft of a hard SF YA novel set on Mars, but reluctantly set it aside (for now) because my agent hunt has shown me that science fiction really isn’t selling right now. So I started researching and outlining a YA Regency interplanetary airship adventure that I think will be more marketable (and also a lot of fun). I intend to begin drafting that one on January 1.

With all that novel-related work I didn’t do a lot of short story writing and submitting, so I don’t have nearly as many new stories, submissions, or sales this year as in some previous years. I did make two pro sales and several reprint and audio sales, and I saw “Trust” published in Daily Science Fiction, “Citizen-Astronaut” in Analog, “The Tides of the Heart” in Realms of Fantasy (which, regrettably, folded shortly thereafter), “The True Story of Merganther’s Run” in The End of an Aeon (finally!), and “Into the Nth Dimension” in Human for a Day. I also saw reprints of “Pupa” in Into the New Millennium (Kindle), “Written on the Wind” at Escape Pod (podcast), “A Passion for Art” at StarShipSofa (podcast), “Zauberschrift” at PodCastle (podcast), and “Powers” in Wild Cards I (audio). “Tides of the Heart” got some very favorable reviews, including a Recommended review in Locus.

Short stories are good. Short stories are fun. But I really, really want to succeed as a novelist, because it’s clear to me that novels get far more attention in this field than short stories do. So in the coming year I intend to really buckle down and focus on the writing. The only way to succeed in this business is to produce, and I intend to put my butt in my chair and write a lot more next year than I did this year. I resolve to write every day, with a minimum of 1000 words per day on weekdays and 100 words per day on weekends and travel days. That’s a stretch — it’s a lot more words per day than I’ve managed in the past on a consistent basis — but I’m hoping that this aggressive goal will force me to find new ways of working and new attitudes that will increase my productivity going forward. And if I can really write at that speed or higher, I can finish this novel in less than a year and still write a bunch of short stories.

So that’s me. I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season and making plans for a great 2012. See you there!

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