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Looking back at 2010

Less than 2 hours until 2011 – it must be time for a year-end retrospective!

If there’s one word I could use to sum up 2010, it would be “busy”. I racked up a huge amount of overtime at the day job this year, and on top of that, I spent many hundreds of hours working on my iOS apps and updates. It wasn’t all work, though. I still managed to attend most of the local Bonsai meetings during the year, along with 3 Bonsai workshops. We also had a great time on our epic road trip to South Dakota.

Up until last year the primary focus of the blog was my fiction writing. For 2010 this took a back seat to writing and marketing apps. Among the usual app announcements, I wrote two well-received posts documenting my experiences with the App Store, specifically the performance of Story Tracker and all the gory details that went along with it. Since moving the blog from Livejournal to my own site, I’ve been able to move the Twitter updates off to a sidebar instead of having them clutter the blog itself. I’m still a regular on Twitter, mostly following other iOS developers and writers. You can look me up at @andrewnicolle.

My general “write more” goal for 2010 didn’t turn out exactly how I’d expected. Instead of referring to words of fiction, it actually turned out to be C and Objective-C code ๐Ÿ˜‰ The only activity related to fiction writing I undertook in 2010 was to keep a collaborative tale doing the rounds of various writing markets. This is one of my earlier pieces, written together with another member of the CriticalMS writing group several years ago. While it hasn’t sold yet, I think we both still believe in it and hold out hope it’ll find a nice home someday. This tale is a blend of historical fiction and Egyptian mythology with a twist of weird fantasy, similar in tone to much of Lovecraft’s work. If anyone knows of any good horror markets, let me know!

As with last year, my reading was pretty much confined to comics and graphic novels. I would’ve loved to get stuck into the growing pile of Stephen King, Jay Lake, Joe Hill, and Charles Stross novels, but alas, I couldn’t spare the time. Here’s my fairly sparse 2010 reading list:

App Savvy: Turning Ideas into iPad & iPhone Apps Customers Really Want
Axe Cop, Vol 1
The Business of iPhone App Development: Making and Marketing Apps that Succeed
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Invincible Ultimate Collection, Vol 2
Ultimate Spider-Man, HC Vol 1
Y The Last Man, HC Vol 2

On my commutes and workouts I mostly listen to podcasts, with the following being my staples: Comic Geek Speak, Just Bill’s Comic DrawerBox, and the Comic Book page podcasts (The Mayo Report and Spotlight episodes).

No year-end blog entry would be complete without some stats:

2010 Stats:

New apps released: 1
App updates released: 10 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2010 Word count: 0
Stories written: 0
Total submissions: 2
Total acceptances: 0
Total rejections: 3
Waiting for response: 0
Books read: 7
Comics read: 160

Probably my greatest accomplishment for 2010 was the release of my second iOS app, Artwork Tracker. I was looking for what I hoped would be a quick project following on from Story Tracker, and creating a similar app for artists sounded like a good idea. I would leverage the Story Tracker code-base, changing fields to be more applicable to artists and adding the ability to store images in the database. Well, it turned out to be a lot more complicated than I’d expected, taking 4 months and well over 300 hours of effort from conception to release on the App Store. Much to my surprise, the app was approved by Apple a mere week after submission, hitting the App Store on December 16th. I was pleased the final development crunch paid off, and I was able to get the app online before Christmas. I’m not yet sure if I’ll put together a numbers post for Artwork Tracker, but I’ll say that so far its performance has been similar to how Story Tracker did soon after launch, despite putting tonnes of extra effort into marketing this time around. On the plus side, Story Tracker is still selling a handful of copies a week after all this time. I might actually recoup my development costs in 2011!

Throughout 2010 I continued to attend the monthly meetings of the Midwest Bonsai Society, along with the shows they run at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This year I visited 4 Bonsai shows, three of which were at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and one at Morton Arboretum. I also attended 3 workshops (Natal Plum, Japanese White Pine, San Jose Juniper), along with a show critique by Bonsai master, Michael Hagedorn. This year I added a bunch of other new trees to my growing collection, including a Trident Maple, Willow Leaf Ficus, Fukien Tea, and a Dawn Redwood. I’ve learned a lot more about Bonsai this year, especially about styling and jinning, and I’m looking forward to building on my newfound knowledge in 2011.

While travel wasn’t quite so extensive this year, we still managed a decent number of road trips and saw plenty of cool sights. We had the usual trips to Michigan throughout the year, but our big summer trip this year was to South Dakota. We had a fantastic time! We spent a few days driving there, staying at a cabin upon our arrival. We visited a bunch of places I’ve been wanting to see for years, including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Deadwood, and the Badlands. Not to mention all the great places I never even knew existed. We even made the pilgrimage to Douglas, Wyoming; the birthplace of that great American mythological creature, the Jackalope. This summer we also had one of my sisters and her family stay with us for the first time. Seeing my little nephew and visiting the air show in Oshkosh were definite highlights.

With 2011 inching ever closer, I’d like to announce one firm resolution for the New Year: finally catch up on our massive photo backlog! Incredibly, I’m still over a year behind sorting and uploading family photos. This weekend I face the daunting task of working my way through the 1500+ photos from our trip to Australia last year. Once I get over that hump, it shouldn’t be quite as painful, with the possible exception of Bonsai show and South Dakota photos. Thankfully I’m current with our home movies ๐Ÿ™‚

For 2011 I’d like to get back into my regular workout habit, having abandoned it for much of this year in favour of more hours in front of a computer. I don’t think it’s wise to sacrifice my health for the sake of work.

Not sure on our travel plans next year, but it’d be nice if we could take another road trip somewhere, possibly out to Maine, or maybe Washington D.C.? Hopefully no major household appliances will die in 2011…

I’m not planning any firm writing goals, but it’d be cool to write a few short stories and send out some of my inventory again. And as usual, I want to read more.

As for my app plans for 2011, they’re still up in the air. I’ll be working on some updates for Artwork Tracker and Story Tracker, but haven’t yet decided whether to throw my hat into Mac development, or stick with iOS apps for now. The launch of the Mac App Store on January 6th makes Mac application development a tempting proposition!

Best wishes to everyone for 2011. May you have a happy and productive New Year!

Story Tracker v1.5 update – now with iPad support!

The Story Tracker v1.5 update is now available on the App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The Story Tracker Lite v1.5 update is also available.

This version is a Universal binary, meaning it’ll run on both iPhone/iPod and iPad at no extra charge. For those of you lucky enough to have pre-ordered an iPad or will be picking one up soon, the app takes advantage of the huge screen real estate available on the iPad, along with supporting new iPad user interface features like popovers, modal dialogs, and rotation.

I’ve posted a bunch of iPad screenshots on the Facebook group here.

If you’ve got an iPad, let me know what you think!

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!


I just joined the chattering hordes at Twitter. I have no idea if I’ll use it much, but it can’t possibly be updated any less than this place, can it ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you’re already twittering, ping me at username andrewnicolle. Happy Tweeting!


February garden

Here’s a selection of indoor garden photos from last month:

February09 Garden 1February09 Garden 10February09 Garden 5February09 Garden 11February09 Garden 3February09 Garden 13February09 Garden 8February09 Garden 15

As usual, much more at the Flickr photo stream here.

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Schloss Neuschwanstein und Hohenschwangau

Here’s a selection of photos from my visit to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles in Germany last month:

Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 8Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 11Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 12Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 14Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 15Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 18Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 21Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 28Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 32Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 35Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 36Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 42Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 47Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 52Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 54Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 55Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 57Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 62Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 68Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 70Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 71Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 76Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 77Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 79Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 83Neuschwanstein_Hohenschwangau Castles 86

As usual, much more at the Flickr photo stream here.

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Where’d January go?

It’s time to update this thing! January was insanely busy, and things are only now beginning to settle down a bit.

Writing-wise, I was off to a good start, working on some new short stories early in the New Year. Unfortunately work got busy fast, with long hours and an unexpected trip to Munich for two weeks! One weekend I did a brief tour of the city and went to the Bavarian Alps to see some castles, so I can’t complain too much. I’ll post another entry with photos soon.

Ever since getting back home I’ve been devoting most of my spare time to working on my first iPhone application, and that’s going well so far. I knew there’d be some conflict between this and the writing, but since I spent hardly any time on the app in January, I figured it was time to balance things out. With the way the economy is right now, it might be a wise idea to prioritize that above my writing for now. The ‘Thing A Week’ plan won’t be working anytime soon.

While on the trip I finished reading Samantha Henderson’s novel, Heaven’s Bones: A Novel of the Mists, blazing through it in record time. I’d had a peek at it previously and provided some comments on the early chapters, and now I wish I’d had the time to read it all back then. I hardly know how to describe it, other than to say it’s a combination gothic steampunk police procedural fantasy with substantial medical and horror elements. That’s a poor description at best, so you really have to read it for yourself. It’s fiendishly clever and has a style reminiscent of some of Sam’s other stories set in Victorian times. From what I understand there’s a bit of a shared-world Wizards of the Coast setting, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment any without having that background. Anyway, pick it up, especially if you’re a Sam Henderson fan.

The weekend before last I put together the potting bench Carrie gave me for Christmas, so that’s sitting in the basement ready to go. She’s already used it to plant her terrarium, which turned out very nicely. I’ll need to get some veggie seeds started soon, and the bench will make the process much more comfortable than in the past. I’ll also need some new growlights, since the old ones are presently illuminating a bunch of cacti and Bonsai.

With the imminent release of the Watchmen movie, I’m finally taking it off the shelf and adding it to the reading pile. I hear this is one of the best graphic novels of all time, so I hope it doesn’t diminish everything else I read afterward. I’ve also got a stack of Wolverine back issues to catch up on, in preparation for the forthcoming movie. From what I’ve seen, it looks like that’ll be a good one, too.

What I’m Reading:
Just After Sunset, Stephen King
Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

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