Archive for December 31st, 2009

A look back at 2009

So, 2009. There were some scary times at work and home, but we survived. A lot of cool stuff happened, including some long awaited travel. We managed to pack an awful lot into the year, so this blog entry will only cover some of the highlights.

The main focus of this blog is primarily my writing efforts, but there hasn’t been much to report this year. As you may have noticed it’s filled with a lot of Twitter traffic these days, and precious little about writing progress. Whereas before months would often go by before I’d post an entry, I usually manage to post at least one Twitter update a day, and often more. It seems I’ve finally found my blogging medium of choice! The downside is less substantial entries and a lot of apparently one-sided conversations with myself. Oh well. The automatic Twitter posts are more for my reference than anything else.

On writing, I started off well and began work on a story challenge in the New Year. That was derailed by some unexpected travel plans (see below), along with my change in focus to iPhone app development. I knew going into the year that my writing efforts might be a disappointment, so it was hardly a surprise when they fell by the wayside early on. The “Thing A Week” didn’t even last past the first week! I also didn’t do too well with keeping my stories circulating, other than a collaborative tale which continues to do the rounds. One of these days that thing’s going to sell ๐Ÿ™‚

I read a few more books than last year, but owing to a severe lack of spare time, these were mainly comics. The full list is in my previous blog entry. I also moved away from audiobooks, listening to far more podcasts on my commute and during workouts than anything else. I’ve been getting my comic podcast fix from Comic Geek Speak, Just Bill’s Comic DrawerBox, and the Comic Book page podcasts (The Mayo Report and Spotlight episodes).

This year’s stats are included below:


2009 Stats:

2009 Word count: 1,204
Stories written: 0
Total submissions: 2
Total acceptances: 0
Total rejections: 1
Total withdrawn: 1
Waiting for response: 1
Books read: 15
Comics read: 282

A big accomplishment in 2009 was the release of my first iPhone app, Story Tracker. After struggling for months with the iPhone SDK, I improved my understanding enough to contemplate writing an app for release on the App Store. It had to be something fairly simple (ha!) and do-able with my skills at the time, so I could have it completed within a few months. With my fiction writing background, a story submission tracking app was an obvious unfilled niche. Six months later and 300+ hours of late night and weekend design, development, and testing, I finally completed the app and submitted it to the App Store. The app was approved by Apple and became available on the evening of August 14th. So much for a quick and easy development cycle! The goal of this app was to help me learn iPhone app development and hopefully make some money in the process. While my expectations for the latter were low, I soon realized I had overestimated the market for such an app and felt a little disappointed with the results. I won’t get into numbers in this post (perhaps a subject for another time?), but I’ve still got a long way to go to recover my development costs, let alone make any semblance of profit. My attempts at advertising had no measureable effect, possibly other than some advertising currently in progress through another developer’s app. Still, I’ve been motivated enough to continue supporting the app with ongoing free updates, and I’m actually working on a fairly major update right now. The app is currently on sale, so if you’re a writer with an iPhone or iPod touch, it might help out with some of your New Year’s writing resolutions! I’m contemplating a change in pricing strategy in the New Year, but that’s still up in the air at this point.

This year I continued to learn more about the art of Bonsai, joining the Midwest Bonsai Society and attending monthly meetings. I also attended 3 Bonsai shows (two at the Chicago Botanic Garden and one at Morton Arboretum) and 3 workshops (Trident Maple Shohin forest, Black Hills Spruce Cascade, Chinese Elm). I added some nice trees to my collection, including a Brazilian Raintree, Satsuki Azalea, Schefflera forest, and a Ginkgo Biloba, among others. I no longer feel like a total Bonsai novice, but I still have a lifetime of learning ahead of me! I won’t discuss the cactus show or my growing collection here…

The travel madness started early this year when I was sent on an unexpected spur-of-the-moment business trip to Germany for two weeks. It would’ve been nice to get more notice, but that tends to be the way with business trips. Despite the long hours, I had some free time one weekend and was able to fulfill a life-long dream to visit the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles in the Bavarian Alps. I also had a whirlwind Grayline bus tour of Munich. I would’ve had longer to explore Munich if only it hadn’t been such a struggle wrapping my head around the public transport system (straightforward in hindsight!). As usual we had several trips to Michigan throughout the year. In early November we were finally able to make the big trip to Australia we’ve talked about for years. I hadn’t been back since immigrating to the US in October 2002! We spent 9 days in Sydney seeing the sights and catching up with an old friend, and a further two weeks sightseeing and staying with family in South Australia. We needn’t have worried about how the little bloke would handle the long flights–he slept most of the time! He was a bit of a handful at the airports, though. Unfortunately I still have 1500+ photos and nearly 6 hours of video to sort through. That’ll have to be a project for 2010 ๐Ÿ˜‰

In addition to visiting family over the Christmas break, I’ve been working on the next update of Story Tracker. Rather than spending today working on that, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and went to the movies to see Avatar in 3D. The verdict? In a word: fantastic! This was the first movie composed mostly of realistic computer graphics where I was fully immersed and wasn’t distracted by imperfections, or the so-called ‘Uncanny Valley.’ The CGI characters were totally convincing and the 3D added a tremendous amount of depth to each scene rather than merely being a gimmick. My only real quibbles were with some of the melodramatic scenes and obvious turns of plot. Despite Avatar being nearly 3 hours long, it didn’t feel overly long. It ranks up there with the Star Trek reboot as one of the best movies I’ve watched in 2009.

As 2010 approaches, one’s mind naturally turns to goals and resolutions for the New Year. Apparently I’m not much good at sticking to specific writing resolutions, so I think I’ll go with a simple “write more” goal and leave it at that. Next year I’d also like to get back to reading more novels and short stories, in addition to my regular comic reading. I’ll be finishing off the next Story Tracker app update in early January, but after that I’m still undecided as to what my next project will be. I’d like to work on another iPhone app or three, and possibly delve into Mac desktop coding. We shall see ๐Ÿ™‚ As for travel, we’ll be sticking a little closer to home next year. Maybe a roadtrip to South Dakota?

I hope you all have a happy and productive 2010, and if you’re already in the future, Happy New Year!

2009 Books Read

Before my annual “look back” journal entry, I thought I’d do a quick post on books read in 2009, for later reference:

Heaven’s Bones
Invincible Ultimate Collection, Vol 1
Y The Last Man, Deluxe Vol 1
Walking Dead Omnibus, Book 1
Walking Dead Omnibus, Book 2
Walking Dead Omnibus, Book 3
Walking Dead Omnibus, Book 4
Secret Wars
Identity Crisis (DC)
Northlanders: Sven The Returned
Chew: Taster’s Choice
JSA: Thy Kingdom Come, Part 1
Irredeemable, Vol 1
Civil War (Marvel)

Noted without comment, other than to say there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch!