Posts Tagged Bonsai

2014 Retrospective

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:

2014 Stats:

New apps released: 4
App updates released: 13 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2014 Word count: 4,930
Stories written: 1
Stories published: 3
Total submissions: 4
Total acceptances: 1
Total rejections: 4
Waiting for response: 0
Books read: 10
Comics read: 16

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.

– Complete the PC versions of Bonsai Album and Story Tracker. I’m still behind on iOS app updates, so those might need to take priority early in the New Year.

– 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!

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2013 Retrospective

Now that we’re entering the final hours of 2013, it’s time for my usual yearly wrap-up!

I was generally pretty happy with 2013. Other than a bunch of work-related stress, an unreliable car, and a health scare near the end of the year, things worked out quite well. I met some of my goals and didn’t do so great on others. I released a few new Mac apps this year and tonnes of updates for my iOS apps, began the arduous task of learning to write PC apps again, and restarted my fiction writing, among other things.

About 10 years ago I started seriously writing fiction with the aim of submitting for publication. In the years prior I’d messed around with a bunch of stories, but more for fun and to see if I could revive a childhood dream. In the past five years I found myself drifting away from fiction writing, other than participating in NaNoWriMo in 2011 and 2012. These efforts produced a pair of incomplete novels which I haven’t returned to since. I still kept a handful of short stories in submission, but mostly focused my efforts on app development instead.

Then something cool happened a few days before Christmas last year. A short story I’d worked on with Samantha Henderson found a home at Lovecraft eZine, a fantastic short fiction market and promoter of all things H.P. Lovecraft. Our story, The Strange Tale of Samuel Winchester was eventually published in the April 2013 issue. This issue is also available in podcast form and on Kindle or Nook. Check it out if you’re into Lovecraftian tales, or short horror fiction in general.

The story publication renewed my interest in getting back to writing fiction, though with all my app-related efforts, I didn’t get stuck into writing again until later in the year. It took the discovery of some writing lectures by Dean Wesley Smith to really kick things into gear. I’d been reading his Writing in Public posts for several months, where he’d post about his day and what he accomplished. At some point he mentioned he’d put up a new writing lecture, which led me to find he’d actually been doing these most of the year. They’re not free, but I think anyone serious about writing fiction would find them worthwhile.

I also happened to come across a new Podcastle short fiction contest toward the end of August, so I got back into writing fiction with a few flash pieces for that. Neither story won, though both were well received. After that I briefly started writing a short story per week, until the urgent need to work on iOS 7 app updates and some health problems derailed the effort. Despite the setback, I had more stories out for submission than I’d had in years. On the down side, that also meant a hefty boost to the rejection count which is rapidly approaching a total of 200!

I would’ve liked to have done more reading this year, but it’s always one of the things to get cut back when I’m busy. Still, it’s a decent amount more than last year:

Alex Jordan: Architect of His Own Dream by Doug Moe
The Last Revelation of Gla’aki by Ramsey Campbell
Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson
Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life by Nick Mamatas
Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran
Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron
Jay Lake’s Process of Writing by Jay Lake
Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant
Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

The reading list was heavy on non-fiction and writing books this year, so I’m itching to read more fiction next year. For the first time I read more in the form of eBooks than in paper.

This year I spent my daily commutes listening to stacks of short fiction via Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle. If you’re into genre fiction, you can’t afford to miss these. They put out some excellent work from great writers past and present, and the podcasts themselves are free. That said, they rely on donations to keep things going. If you like what you hear, send a few bucks their way and spread the word.

I’m admittedly a numbers junkie, so now it’s time for some stats:

2013 Stats:

New apps released: 2
App updates released: 34 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2013 Word count: 23,894
Stories written: 6
Stories published: 1
Total submissions: 16
Total acceptances: 0
Total rejections: 11
Waiting for response: 5
Books read: 10
Comics read: 38

This year was a busy time for new apps and updates. Not only did I need to keep on top of a bunch of large updates for my existing iOS apps, Story Tracker, Artwork Tracker, and Bonsai Album, but I also worked on a few new ones.

In April I released Bonsai Album for Mac via the Mac App Store, with a trial version and direct purchase also available via my website. Like the iOS version, this one is localized into six languages, including Japanese, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Portuguese. Thanks again to the app localization services of iCanLocalize and the Linguan app.

Artwork Tracker for Mac came out in early August via the Mac App Store, and also with a trial version and direct purchase available via my website. In November I realized I hadn’t released a new iOS app in over 2 years, so I began brainstorming app ideas. Later that month I announced a new iOS app, Cactus Album, for cacti and succulent enthusiasts. I’m making good progress on that, and there’s a post with an early screenshot.

Not to forget, I’m still puttering away with some PC apps. In January I announced Story Tracker for PC, and in April, Bonsai Album for PC. Work on these is progressing with painful slowness, since I have to start from scratch and learn how to develop everything for the PC. Unfortunately I’m finding PC app development to be a great deal more difficult than for the Mac, despite once being fairly proficient in PC development over a decade ago. Things have changed a lot in the past ten years!

I’m still a member of the Midwest Bonsai Society, but I don’t think I made it to a single meeting this year, due to them coinciding with overtime at work or vacation plans. I attended the two shows they run at the Chicago Botanic Garden, as well as several workshops (Cork-Bark Maple, Japanese Black Pine, and Hornbeam) and visiting bonsai artist Bjorn Bjorholm’s exhibit critique of the August show. I also added a few other new trees to my collection (Shimpaku Juniper and Dwarf Crape Myrtle), along with a nice Sara Rayner pot for my first bonsai. And thanks to working on Cactus Album, I seem to have caught the cactus bug again!

This year we made a bunch of short trips throughout Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. We spent some time at the Wisconsin Dells, and spent 5 weeks with my parents (from Australia), who were visiting in Spring. The definite highlights were our visit to The House on the Rock, a riverboat cruise down the Illinois River, and our gastronomic tour of the region. We also spent some quality time with some other guests from Downunder, including my youngest sister and her husband, and my best mate.

I was doing great with my personal fitness until about April, when I ate far too much and exercised far too little. I resumed the exercise routine later in the year, but that was soon derailed by health problems and travel. Finding time for regular exercise continues to be a struggle.

So that was 2013. On the eve of the New Year, I’d like to come up with a few personal goals for 2014…

I’m planning to ease back into the exercise routine in 2014, with running and possibly adding some weights back into the routine. This is probably going to be the toughest thing to stick with throughout the year!

With my apps, I’ll be releasing Cactus Album to the App Store early in the year, with a possible Mac version to follow if the iOS app does well. While I expect I’ll still need to release some updates for my other iOS apps, I’d like to devote more time to getting the PC apps up and running. With the way the app market is these days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) to justify continuing to update older apps for free. I’m not sure what to do about that, other than to spend more time working on new apps.

As for writing, I was all set to post some insanely ambitious goals, but instead I’ll keep the goal simple: write more. That pretty much covers everything I planned to say anyway 😉

Have a happy and productive 2014!

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Bonsai Album v2.2 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Bonsai Album v2.2 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy, whether you’re new to bonsai, a collector, a dealer, or even a bonsai master.

Bonsai Album

This update contains the following changes:

  • Camera view now appears in full-screen instead of a popup on iPad
  • Fixed add button tap issues on iOS 7

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Bonsai Album at my website or on the Bonsai Album Facebook group.

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Bonsai Album v2.1 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Bonsai Album v2.1 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy, whether you’re new to bonsai, a collector, a dealer, or even a bonsai master.

Bonsai Album

This update contains the following changes:

Note: This update requires iOS 5.0 or higher!

  • Added iOS 7 support
  • New iOS 7-style minimalist interface
  • Bug fixes

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Bonsai Album at my website or on the Bonsai Album Facebook group.

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Bonsai Album v2.0 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Bonsai Album v2.0 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy, whether you’re new to bonsai, a collector, a dealer, or even a bonsai master.

Bonsai Album

This update contains the following changes:

  • Photos can now be rearranged. In the photo grid view for any Bonsai, Pot or Log, long press (not tap) the photo and drag it to the new position
  • Added a search bar on the Bonsai, Pots, and Logs lists
  • Improved Bluetooth keyboard support
  • Removed the photo slot selection button on the full-screen photo view. The main photo slots now reflect the order of photos on the Photos screen
  • Updated database transfer alerts to mention the ability to connect with the Mac version of Bonsai Album
  • Added Oldest Tree statistic
  • Bug fixes

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Bonsai Album at my website or on the Bonsai Album Facebook group.

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Bonsai Album for Mac – Now Available!

Bonsai Album for Mac is now available for direct download from my site. Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy. Track development of your trees throughout their lives, on your Mac!

Bonsai Album for Mac

Today I’m pleased to present my new Mac app, Bonsai Album. It brings the features of the iOS app to the Mac platform, with some nice additions including photo organization, enhanced search, and printing capabilities. If you’ve got a Mac with Retina display, you’ll also appreciate how Bonsai Album looks in glorious high-resolution.

Bonsai is an art and science with international appeal, a fact that was heavily reinforced after I released the iOS version of Bonsai Album in English back in 2011. Over the following seven months I received many emails and reviews from across the world requesting localization into other languages. Shortly thereafter I released multiple app updates providing support for an additional six of the most popular languages used by my customers. Like the iOS version, Bonsai Album for Mac has been localized into English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. To assist international visitors to this site, I’ll soon be adding a series of posts containing localized versions of the app description and screenshots.

To run Bonsai Album, you’ll need a Mac with either Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.6), Lion (OS X 10.7.x), or Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8.x).

The download version initially runs in an unregistered trial mode, limited to 3 bonsai, 3 pots, and 3 logs, with 3 photos each. In this mode it also only allows a single database window, and database import is disabled. You may purchase a license either within the app or via the Web Store to unlock the app’s full functionality. After it’s unlocked, this version contains the same features as the forthcoming Mac App Store version, including an automatic software updating feature.

You can find more details including screenshots and the full list of features on the Bonsai Album for Mac page of my site.

What about the Mac App Store, you may ask? I submitted the app to Apple yesterday, so it’ll probably be another few weeks before approval. Meanwhile, feel free to download the trial version here and take the app for a spin while you wait.

I’d like to thank all the wonderful Beta testers who helped refine the app into its final form. I received a lot of great feedback over the last month that helped improve the app and allowed me to identify some issues I might otherwise have missed.

I’d also like to thank the open source community, including Andy Matuschak for the indispensable Sparkle updating system, Andy Kim and Matt Gallagher for LetsMove, Bit Stadium GmbH for HockeyApp, Gleb Dolgich for the fantastic CocoaFob, and FastSpring for their customer service and handy FastSpring Embedded Store. If you’re a Mac developer, I highly recommend you check out all of the above.

I hope bonsai fans around the world find Bonsai Album for Mac a useful and enjoyable tool for tracking your bonsai collections, and I welcome any feature suggestions or comments you may have. Enjoy!

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An update on Bonsai Album for Mac

Track your Bonsai tree collection on your Mac – Coming Soon!

If you’re into bonsai and you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you’re probably familiar with my bonsai app, Bonsai Album. Last year I announced I’d begun work on a Mac version, and I posted an early preview screenshot.

Since last year I’ve been busily working on the app, and now it’s almost feature-complete! The Mac version includes some additional features over and above the iOS version, like photo organization, printing, enhanced search capabilities, and support for Mac Retina displays. You’ll also be able to transfer data between the Mac and iOS versions over WiFi. The screenshot above shows the captioned photo display feature, similar to the iOS version.

The app is currently being localized into multiple languages, including English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. All of these languages will be supported at launch.

Bonsai Album for Mac will be available for purchase directly via my website, as well as through the Mac App Store. There’ll also be a free trial version available for download, with similar limitations to the iOS Lite version.

I’m still working on a release date, but I anticipate it should be ready sometime in March, 2013. Beta-testing will commence shortly. If Bonsai Album for Mac sounds interesting, you might want to sign up to the mailing list below to be notified about the Beta-test and app launch.

I can’t wait to bring this exciting new app to bonsai fans around the world!

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2012 Retrospective

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!

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Bonsai Album v1.8 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Bonsai Album v1.8 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy, whether you’re new to bonsai, a collector, a dealer, or even a bonsai master.

Bonsai Album

This update contains the following changes:

  • Fixed purchase price truncation bug
  • Added button to view pot information on the Bonsai Info screen
  • Added buttons to view bonsai and pot information on the Log Info screen
  • Bug fixes

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Bonsai Album at my website or on the Bonsai Album Facebook group.

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Bonsai Album v1.7 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Bonsai Album v1.7 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy, whether you’re new to bonsai, a collector, a dealer, or even a bonsai master.

Bonsai Album

This update contains the following changes:

Note: This update requires iOS 4.3 or higher!

  • Added iOS 6 support
  • Support for new high-resolution iPhone 5 and iPod touch displays
  • Greatly improved app startup time with large databases. The app will take longer to start the first time after updating to this version, but will start faster thereafter. This is due to the database upgrade
  • Added Portuguese localization
  • Improved German localization of bonsai terms
  • Updated German CSV template
  • Improved data saving behavior
  • Fixed non-Retina iPad tab bar texture
  • Added database integrity check and repair of database corruption
  • Prevent automatic screen-locking during database transfer over WiFi
  • Added iTunes File Sharing support
  • Bug fixes

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Bonsai Album at my website or on the Bonsai Album Facebook group.

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