Since we’re practically on the doorstep of 2015, it’s time for my traditional year-end post.
On the whole, 2014 was a pretty decent year for me. There was the usual work overtime madness and general stress, more car expenses, and paying completely out of pocket for last year’s medical issues, but other than all that, I personally didn’t have too much to complain about.
This year was a hard one for fans of genre fiction, with the tragic loss of two superb writers who passed long before their time, due to cancer. I’m referring to Jay Lake and Eugie Foster, though there were others not on my radar.
I’d followed Jay’s career since the early days, circa 2003. I consider him a mentor in my writing, as well as a fine upstanding human being. I only met him once (at Wiscon in 2006), but loved trying to keep up with his prolific output of short stories, and eagerly followed his writing process blog posts and news of his new novels. He was always willing to help and educate others, specifically other writers. He also grimly documented every detail in his battle with cancer, and successfully raised enough funds from a crowdfunding campaign to sequence his genome. The world is poorer for his loss, but I suspect in the years ahead his contributions will become more widely noticed.
While I’d never met Eugie, I’ve been following her work for 5 years or so, primarily podcasts of her short fiction. It was quite a shock to learn of her passing, since she was so young. If you haven’t yet checked out any of her work, please visit her website and start exploring her bibliography.
Back to my 2014 goals, I completely flubbed my “write more” goal, though this was intentional, as I’ll discuss in a moment. I released 3 new iOS apps and one new Mac app, along with updates for all the above, and just about completed a new PC app. I also began my first tentative steps into the indie-eBook publishing world.
Let’s start with the fiction. I’ve been writing fiction on and off for over 10 years now, and during that time I’ve made a few hundred dollars in short story sales. My plan for 2014 was to kick my writing into high gear, increasing my word count, increasing submissions, and hopefully increasing sales. I was off to a good start in the first few days of the New Year, completing a new short story.
What derailed all this was the huge medical bill from last year, which the health insurance company decided they wouldn’t cover at all. I fought it tooth and nail for about 6 months before all avenues of appeal were exhausted. As a result, I decided to invest most of my spare time on app development, in an attempt to raise the necessary funds. This wasn’t entirely successful either, but I did what I could.
Halfway through the year I was pleased with an acceptance from Lovecraft eZine for my short story, That Which Dwells Beneath. That was finally published in issue #33, which came out over the weekend. You can read it here. It’s free to read on the website, with a podcast version soon to come, along with Kindle and Nook eBooks.
During the year I watched a bunch more writing lectures by Dean Wesley Smith and the folks at WMG Publishing. While not always full of earth-shattering tips, they always have lots of good, no-nonsense advice. Highly recommended.
Toward the end of the year I set myself an internal goal of self-publishing at least one short story online, to be available through Amazon and various other eBook venues. I had a few stories in mind, but didn’t get cracking on this until December. It entailed learning about cover design and eBook formatting, among other things. After watching a few WMG Publishing cover design lectures and reading Guido Henkel’s Zen of eBook Formatting, I set to work. The first story, Back Again, is available for sale direct from my website, as well as on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Nook.
Upon returning from our trip to Florida, I began work on publishing a second story online. Originally titled, The Diary of Amelia Burke, this is now available exclusively with Amazon with the title, Night Lights. Why exclusive, you might ask? This is all part of my experiment. If the story is available exclusively with Amazon, it’s automatically enrolled with Kindle Unlimited (KU). If you’re a reader signed up for a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you get to read it for free. Despite that, the economics of the program mean it’s currently possible to earn substantially more per short story download from a KU borrow ($1 or more) vs a direct purchase at 99 cents (35 cents or so). I’ll be curious to see how this pans out.
I wasn’t diligent about keeping my stories out for submission, so the submission count is pretty anemic this year. It didn’t help that I didn’t have many new stories to submit, either. I plan to address both issues in 2015.
I was reasonably happy with my volume of reading this year. I read the same number of books as last year, but the page count was much higher:
Fat Vampire Value Meal (Fat Vampire #1-4) by Johnny B. Truant
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
Zombie Cop by Ben Settle
Replay by Ken Grimwood
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
Writer Dad by Sean Platt
Microsoft Visual C# 2013 Step by Step by John Sharp
The Dark Tower (Book 7) by Stephen King
Zen of eBook Formatting by Guido Henkel
Crash by David W. Wright
Between finally finishing Stephen King’s conclusion to the Dark Tower series (I’m ignoring The Wind Through the Keyhole here) and a hefty C# programming tome, I wasn’t able to read as much fiction as I would’ve liked. I also delved more into self-published works, which weren’t all to my liking (see my goodreads ratings). Aside from the programming book, I read exclusively in eBook form this year.
This year I continued to listen to short fiction podcasts on my daily commute via Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle. The quality continues to be incredible, and I highly recommend them, even to people who might not be big short fiction readers. The podcasts are free, but please send a few bucks their way if you enjoy listening.
Now for some stats:
|New apps released:||4|
|App updates released:||13 (includes Lite and Paid versions)|
|2014 Word count:||4,930|
|Waiting for response:||0|
As I briefly mentioned above, I doubled down on app development in 2014. While not releasing quite so many updates, I did release 4 new apps on iOS and Mac, as well as substantially completing work on a new PC app.
The scary thing I’ve noticed is that either the bottom has fallen out of the app market in the last 18 months, or my apps are reaching saturation for their respective niches. My year-over-year revenue is only marginally up, despite releasing more apps and updates, as well as localizing Bonsai Album for a supposedly huge market (China). As far as the China app market, I’d say it’s great to localize for free apps and games, but probably not worth the time for paid productivity apps, unless you have a high-volume app (i.e. not in a niche).
Since there seems to be little interest from Apple in promoting charging for app upgrades, and attempting paid upgrades on your own seems to lead to customer revolt, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to justify updating older apps. Even the market for new apps seems to be drying up due to the intense level of competition these days. At this point my only hope for continuing to develop apps is to release fewer updates, and hope for the PC versions to take off in a big way.
Getting back on track, in February I released Cactus Album on the iOS platform. This is a similar app to my other plant care app, Bonsai Album, except taking into account the unique requirements for tracking cacti and succulents.
March saw the release of my first iOS game, Flapalope. It’s a free game with ads, and my take on the flappy genre. I’m pleased with how it turned out, even if it is the world’s greatest flying jackalope game that hardly anyone played.
In June I released Orchid Album, also on iOS. You can probably guess what this one does. I learned quite a bit about orchids in the preceding months while doing research for the app, gaining a new appreciation for the plants. In my usual fashion, I became a little fanatical about collecting them.
In July I released a paid version of Flapalope, with the imaginative title, Flapalope Gold. I’m not counting this as a new app, since it’s exactly the same as the original, just minus the ads. Again, this sank without a trace, and wasn’t really worth the week or so of development time.
Also in July I started learning a new programming language (C#), and became heavily involved in development of the PC version of Bonsai Album. The learning curve was quite steep compared with Mac and iOS development, but I think I’m getting the hang of things at this point. All the major features are now complete, though I still have another 6 weeks or so of tidying up details in preparation for the beta test. Following completion of Bonsai Album for PC, I’m also planning a version of Story Tracker for PC.
In early August I learned the 2D game development framework Cocos2D could also be used to create Mac games. Feeling positively frazzled from PC development, I took a short detour to work on my first Mac game. And thus, Flapalope for Mac was born! Again, nobody seemed too interested unless I dropped the price to free. Oh, well. At least I can say I’ve cornered the market on flying jackalope games on two platforms…
2014 was a discouraging year for my interest in bonsai. After one of the worst winters on record, I lost at least 7 trees due to the extreme cold. Some of these trees I’d been working on for years, so it was quite a blow to realize they were dead. A few other trees I’m still holding out hope for, though their chances aren’t good. Some surprised me, springing back to life during the summer, long after they normally would have in early spring.
I only made it to one Midwest Bonsai Society meeting this year. It was a memorable one, with renowned bonsai artist Walter Pall in town to demonstrate his carving skills. I was simply working too much overtime to be able to make it to more meetings.
I attended two bonsai shows this year, one at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and one at Morton Arboretum. I didn’t attend any bonsai workshops, being so demotivated about the hobby this year. I added one new tree to my collection (Hinoki Cypress), along with a large number of cacti, succulents, and orchids.
While I hardly took any time off in the first half of the year, we still managed to make some trips to Michigan and the UP in the second half, as well as northern Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Dells. A surprise from the inlaws was spending Christmas week in Florida. We took two days to drive there and two to drive back. While in Florida we visited Legoland, the Magic Kingdom, and the Florida Aquarium, among others. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, though the temperature change from 70F to 7F on the way back was a bit hard to take!
For the first time in my life I was very happy with my personal fitness this year. I made time for regular treadmill workouts, though I decided to skip weight training to save time, and due to my history of injury. I consistently exercised 3 times a week, with only the occasional week skipped due to travel. I’m counting 119 workouts this year, which is probably equal to the combined total for the last couple of years.
That’s about it for 2014. Since I’m a total sucker for New Year’s goal setting, even though I can’t always meet them, here’s what I’m planning for 2015:
– Stick with the exercise routine as much as possible. As I’m getting older, I’m learning it pays not to play games with your health. Regular exercise is great for keeping some of those age-related aches and pains away, as well as contributing to a more relaxed state of mind.
– Finally complete my first novel. This has languished on my hard drive for years, so it’s time to dust it off and get it done.
– Continue experimenting with self-publishing and also continue submitting my work to publishers. I’m still a strong believer in submitting short stories to traditional markets, but not so much when it comes to novel-length work.
– Emphasize fiction writing over apps. I sacrificed my writing efforts this year, and I don’t want to do that again in 2015.
That about wraps things up. I hope you also had a decent year, and that 2015 turns out to be even better. Happy New Year!