As 2012 draws to a close, it’s time for another retrospective blog post!

Personally, I don’t have too many complaints about 2012. I accomplished some of my goals for the year, fell short in others, and learned a whole bunch. Work at the day job was interesting and challenging, yet I still managed to carve out time for my after-hours hobbies. I finally released my first Mac app, released a heap of updates for my iOS apps, learned even more about Bonsai than I’d hoped, and came to terms with some truths about my writing. I’m disappointed I didn’t accomplish some of my goals, but that just gives me something to strive for next year.

For many years I’ve drifted in and out of fiction writing, since my first efforts in 2003 where I changed from a mindset of writing for my own enjoyment to writing for publication. Over the past 4 years my efforts have dwindled to the point where I’m really just keeping stories in circulation, and not actively writing much new material. I spend most of my spare time working on apps these days, leaving little time for fiction writing.

Last year I took part in my first NaNoWriMo and learned a lot about the craft of novel-writing, despite not reaching the 50,000 word goal. What I ended up with was two-thirds of a novel and a decent outline for the rest. It was the longest single piece of fiction I’d ever written, and I was understandably chuffed and looking forward to finishing it in 2012. Due to apps eating my spare time, I never got around to it. As November approached, I again decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, and in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I planned to work on my 2nd novel. Unfortunately I didn’t get started until a few days into November, and progress was painfully slow. It took a further week before ideas started to gel, but by then I’d begun to get discouraged and felt little motivation to plow ahead for the rest of the month. It didn’t help that I still had some urgent app updates to work on, along with a strong desire to get started on a new Mac app.

So writing-wise, 2012 was a huge disappointment. That said, a few days before Christmas I received a nice email: an acceptance from an editor of a cool online fiction market for a short story I’d collaborated on with Samantha Henderson. We were both pleased our little tale found the perfect home. I look forward to announcing the story and venue closer to actual publication.

I’d planned to do a lot more reading this year, but this didn’t work out too well, as you can see from the extremely short list below:

Horns by Joe Hill
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

All were fantastic reads, so I’m pleased that what little reading time I had was well-spent.

I made good use of my daily commutes. I found myself drifting away from the comics podcasts I’d typically listen to, instead switching to a regular dose of short fiction through a wonderful trio of podcasts: Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle. It was like revisiting an old friend after a long absence, finding them to be just as delightful as you’d remembered. If you’re an avid genre fiction reader with time for podcasts, I recommend these three wholeheartedly. Not only do they showcase some excellent work, but they’re also free, operating on a donation model. Throw a few bucks their way, if you can. You’ll be helping to fund some of the best short fiction produced today.

No retrospective would be complete without some stats:

2012 Stats:

New apps released: 1
App updates released: 28 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2012 Word count: 4,382
Stories written: 0 (novels still in progress!)
Total submissions: 3
Total acceptances: 1
Total rejections: 2
Waiting for response: 0
Books read: 3
Comics read: 42

My app plans for 2012 were fairly aggressive. I planned to release my first Mac app, Story Tracker for Mac, along with releasing a bunch of updates to my three existing iOS apps: Story Tracker, Artwork Tracker, and Bonsai Album. For the latter, I planned to localize the app into several languages.

The Mac app took longer than expected, but I finally released it for direct-sale and via the Mac App Store in September. You can read all about the trials and tribulations of Mac app development here and here. It’s already received some good reviews from AppStorm and AppModo. Having gained a good feel for Mac development, in mid-July I announced a Mac version of Bonsai Album. That’s coming along nicely. I’ve posted an early screenshot, and I’m on track to release the app in spring 2013.

From May through October, I localized Bonsai Album into six languages, including Japanese, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Portuguese. While it wasn’t a trivial exercise, the process was made much easier by using the app localization services of iCanLocalize and managing the translated strings using the superb Linguan app. Feedback from customers was fantastic, which was one of the key reasons behind my decision to bring the app to the Mac. If you’re curious about what localization can do for your app, consider this: over 60% of the sales of Bonsai Album come from outside the US, and over 40% are from non English-speaking countries. The app market is global, and your customers definitely appreciate localization efforts.

In addition to putting a lot of effort into the user interface on Story Tracker for Mac, I tried to improve my icon design skills. I found the Icon Resource videos to be quite useful, and spent many hours translating what I’d learned into designing icons in Inkscape. While it’s by no means perfect, I’m pleased with how the icon for Story Tracker for Mac turned out. I’ve come a long way from my first effort on the iOS version of Story Tracker! I took what I’d learned from the Mac icon and gave the iOS version a much needed update, too.

This year I attended a handful of monthly meetings of the Midwest Bonsai Society, along with the shows they run at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This year I visited 3 Bonsai shows, two of which were at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and one at Morton Arboretum. I attended more workshops than in years past (Satsuki Azalea, Kingsville Boxwood, Bring-Your-Own-Tree, and Ponderosa Pine) and added a new tree to my growing collection (a Brazilian Raintree). I especially enjoyed Andy Smith’s Ponderosa Pine workshop – he really has an eye for great material and knows how to bring out the best in any tree of this species. For the Bring-Your-Own-Tree workshop with visiting master, Peter Warren, I brought along my Bald Cypress, and got some great hands-on tips and styling advice. Peter Warren’s exhibit critique of the August show was interesting and informative, which you can see here. While looking for bonsai pots online, I came across Iker Bonsai Pottery and found some great hand-crafted work. I ordered a nice pot for my new Boxwood there. This is one of those aspects of the hobby I haven’t paid much attention to until now. It’s like a whole other hobby in itself!

Things were pretty quiet travel-wise this year. We made some short road trips to Michigan and spent some time in Milwaukee and Door County in Wisconsin. Closer to home, we stayed at the incredible Ravenstone Castle B&B in Harvard, Illinois.

As usual, my personal fitness varied throughout 2012. I was off to a strong start, keeping a regular routine until May or June when I began putting even more time into the apps. I returned to my regular workouts in late November and again learned why it’s always better to avoid long gaps between workouts.

Though I always seem to have trouble meeting my personal goals for the New Year, I just can’t help myself from coming up with more. So here I go for 2013…

I got a bit out of shape later in the year, so I want to try to avoid that in future. I intend to maintain my workouts in 2013, but most definitely do not plan to participate in any marathons or other extreme contests of strength or endurance!

For apps, it goes without saying I’ll need to work on updates for my existing apps. In particular, I have some cool stuff in mind for Story Tracker and Bonsai Album. Bonsai Album for Mac will be my first priority, though. I’d also like to come up with something new. The financial return from my huge time investment in apps is still very modest indeed, and it’d be great to come up with some app ideas that really take off.

I enjoy working on the app stuff, but would like to dedicate more time to writing in 2013. I also need to read more than a paltry handful of books! At this stage I can’t see myself participating in NaNoWriMo next year, since I have more than enough on my plate with two novels to finish. I also plan to write some new short stories and get some of my inventory out into circulation again. It’s going to be a tough juggling act, for sure.

Best wishes for 2013, and I hope you have a happy and productive New Year!