It was a very good year

Some of the things I did this year were things I set out to do:

  • I took my son with me to Boskone this year.
  • I sold a story to a SFWA-qualifying venue.
  • I became eligible to join SFWA (Associate level), although I haven’t done so yet.
  • I finished writing 1 book I’d previously started (Daniel).
  • I wrote more than a dozen new short stories.
  • I wrote a new book for NaNoWriMo.
  • I wrote and submitted a new novella for the UPC SF contest.
  • I attended my first WorldCon.
  • I ran a 5k race. (Okay, the original goal was a half marathon.)
  • I read, on average, more than a book a week (including magazine issues).

Some of the things I did weren’t on my agenda to begin with:

  • I started a sole proprietorship publisher, Hartshorn Publishing, to put some of my work up as e-books.
  • I got my first book contract (with Moongypsy Press, for Touching Time). (Didn’t actually get a formal contract yet, but then, I don’t have a complete book to deliver yet, either.)
  • I put four short works and a novella up for sale as e-books.
  • I lost a fair bit of weight and a couple of inches as a result of my running. (Honesty compels me to admit that the lack of said running through the summer and fall did away with the majority of this progress, especially with holiday treats to cap it off.)
  • I participated in the A to Z blog challenge in April.
  • I wrote another A to Z series of blog posts, focused on women writers of science ficiton and fantasy.

And, of course, there are things I planned to but didn’t:

  • I wanted to complete the quilt I was working on for a contest deadline in January.
  • I wanted to finally get a raised bed put in to grow vegetables and herbs.
  • I wanted to have more novels under contract with publishers.

Making money from my writing? (These numbers combine all avenues of income.)

  • Short stories: $558.48
  • Articles: $38.25
  • Novellas: $20.77
  • Novels: $0

Overall, definitely a very good year. Now, having exceeded expectations, I need to start working on my dreams and goals for 2012. Onward and upward!

On goals

It’s coming up on the end of the year, and I’m noticing people posting about how they’ve done this year or making plans for next year. (I’ve got a wrap-up post of my own that’ll go up Saturday, so I’m not immune.) If you need help in thinking about goals, I suggest you take a look at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Annually, he does a series of posts on goals, how to set them, and how to make sure they’re realistic. Right now, only the first one is up for this year, New World of Publishing: Failure is an Option. Quitting is Not. Here’s the meat of the post (in my opinion):

Check through all your goals for 2012 and make sure they ONLY concern your work level that is in your control.

Nothing more.

No action from another party can be involved, otherwise it is not realistic.

He’s also got a lot in there on failure (hence the title of the post), and how it’s going to happen. Anything that’s out of your control (which, as a writer, includes a publisher picking up your title or readers buying your work) is subject to failure. But you only fail completely if you give up. Definitely worth a read.

So . . . looking at posts like this, I get in the mood to think about all I’d love to accomplish next year. I could probably write a huge list. I usually do, including lists of books I want to finish, new projects I want to do, and on and on. This year, however, I’ve already set my new goals, and I’m keeping them simple, as I already mentioned.

  1. Finish something every week. This can be a novel, a short story, a haiku, a drabble, or a paying project for work. Paying work often leaves me exhausted and not wanting to do much if any writing, so taking that into consideration keeps me from beating myself up. Still, it’s a concrete weekly goal. Do something!
  2. Get something up for sale every month. By only asking myself to get one new thing up per month, that gives me time to make sure I have covers, and when a month is filled with family or with paying work or unexpected turbulence, it still gives me a chance of success.

Why am I posting today? To remind myself that I don’t need a huge to-do list. Just following through on these two goals is sufficient, and it should be instructive to look back next year and see just what 52 things I’ve managed to finish. It’s even conceivable that, say, the week I decide to finish sewing up my son’s quilt that that will be my finished project for the week. I don’t know, but it should be a lovely adventure to find out.

What about you? What goals are you planning to work toward in the next year?

Step by step makes a project

Back in June, I posted about summer projects for while I travel. I figured it’s past time I posted an update on that.

I’m working on a new quilt for my son’s bed, roughly twin size. I’m using 8-inch squares, and the size requires 88 of them. I’ve got just over 1/4 of them completed right now. I want at least half of the squares completed before I start stitching them into rows. I’ll post pictures when I get to that point, too.

It won’t be soon — it takes me 3-4 hours to stitch each square. I can get an hour or two a day in, by taking time in the morning and evening, but that’s still a lot of hours to go.

circle, batting, and square for quilting

Laying out the materials. My son picked out the batting -- it's fairly thick, as you can see. He likes thick blankets.

initial pinning of a square to quilt

Circle folded over & roughly pinned. My circles are a bit on the small side, and with the batting so thick, the edges don't quite mesh as they should.

Square with all the circle edges pinned down.

All the circle's edges pinned neatly. There's some bowing of the pieces, but batting squishes and fabric stretches, so I managed to get the squares together so I could sew them.

Quilt square, sewn

A completed square.

Quilted square, yellow with red thread

Back of a square. This shows how much the square bends because the circle's too small.

Close up of one corner of quilt square.

Close up of one corner. You can see my stitches still have room for improvement.

What can you do in an hour?

Why an hour? Because it’s a chunk of time I often have. In the mornings, after I make my son’s lunch and tidy up the kitchen, it’s about an hour before he heads off to the school bus and I get down to work for the day. In the evening, it’s about an hour between when I get my daughter to bed and when I need to get my son to bed. After that, it may be one or two hours before I head to bed. Just as some examples. And, of course, there are all those hours on the weekend that might get ignored and frittered away.

In an hour, I can . . .

  • Hand piece one quarter of a quilt block.
  • Index 5-15 pages (depending on the text).
  • Write 1,500 words.
  • Read 2 or 3 chapters in a book (been a while since I timed my reading, so this is a WAG).
  • Weed and mulch a flower bed.
  • Do the week’s grocery shopping.
  • Cook and serve dinner, maybe even squeeze in the clean-up.
  • Watch an video lecture for an online class or do the associated homework so I’ve got deeper background for future stories.
  • Go for a run, then stretch and shower afterward.
  • Read a stack of books with my daughter.
  • Go outside and blow bubbles and draw with sidewalk chalk with both of my kids.
  • Bake a batch of cookies.
  • Clean all 3 of the bathrooms.
  • Play cribbage with my son.
  • Pay bills and clean clutter off the table where they’ve been stacked.
  • Or

  • Watch an episode of an SF show on Netflix with my husband (We went through the new Battlestar Galactica earlier this year, and Netflix has various flavors of Star Trek as well, for example.), possibly plus an episode of a comedy like Arrested Development.

Sometimes, it’s not an hour; I only have 15 or 20 minutes — but I can still get a chunk of a lot of these done.

What about you? What can you do with an hour?

Summer’s end

As I write this, we have mostly blue skies and sunshine outside. A cool breeze is blowing, and no pollen remains in the air, courtesy of Irene. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones or sustained damage because of the storm, and I know there is more flooding yet to come. Right now, right here, however, it feels like the first taste of fall.

I’ve always loved fall — loved going back to school, loved new chances and opportunities, loved the promise of new beginnings. This year is no different; I’m energized and excited, ready to write.

So as my son heads back to school to learn (but not tomorrow because schools are closed — Irene, I presume) and my husband heads back to school to teach, I’m heading back to what I do. The running, which fell by the wayside for the summer, once again is on my schedule. I have a list of old stories to complete and new ones to write. And I’m looking forward, beyond the next four months, to chart where I’d like to go over the next few years.

What about you? What thoughts does fall stir in you?

As always, thanks for reading!


I’ve been doing a cross-country road trip with my family, which has put me a bit behind on reading and posting. There will be no A to Z post this week; next week, I will continue with de Bodard, de Pierres, and Duane.

Oh, and maybe I’ll post a vacation pic or two later.

What are you so afraid of?

Before I get into the meat of this post, just a quick note about the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. It begins Friday, July 1, at Alex’s blog. I’ll be blogging on the second of each month, so look for my post on Saturday. And you can always find the listing of posts on the blog tour site itself.

Now to today’s topic — fear. I recently read Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins, by Farson and Keyes. They talked about fear of failure and fear of success — and how sometimes fear of success was a fear of failure because we’re afraid that we can’t maintain or repeat the success. They also talked about how fear of failure could actually be fear of appearing to be a failure — fear of humiliation. That gave me a lot to think about.
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Summer projects for the road

When our family goes on vacation, we almost always drive, no matter how far we’re going — a couple years ago, we drove from Pennsylvania up to British Columbia, down the Pacific coast, then back across the country to go home. This gives us ample time to listen to audiobooks (seems to be the only time my husband and I listen to Tess Gerritsen), although some books are too complex for anything but routine driving conditions (Oryx and Crake, Blue). The other thing it gives me time for is creating something with my hands.

On previous trips, I’ve knitted sweaters, crocheted and knitted bookmarks, even crocheted doilies (not that I keep any out on our tables). It keeps me busy, and it also helps recharge my muse because I’m indulging in a form of creation that doesn’t require words.

I’ve decided to do something different for our next trip: circular patchwork (see Carol Britts program for pictures to give you an idea). I’ll have to prep all the materials ahead of time — circles, batting, squares — but as I create each block, it’s already quilted. Single blocks can be readily held on my lap, and even joining finished squares into strips should be feasible in the car.

I’m not a hand pieced or quilter — it takes too long. I’d rather use a machine and have a finished product. So many calls on my time! On a trip, though, I’ll have time. I’ll also be developing a new skill. Will I be able to finish a quilt on a trip? No idea, but I can at least start and see how far I get.

The hardest part? May be going through my fabric stash and deciding what to work with!