Category Archives: year end review

2016 in summary–writing, day jobbe, horse stuff, garden

2016 was a rough year. Good things happened, but several tough things that are still working themselves out also happened, personally and politically. The son got sick and we are still working through all that stuff (deep sigh), including things that are really difficult, and 2017 is going to be a pivotal year there. The Trump election brought us back to 1980 and the Reagan Revolution, and while I can see where this might bring about some changes that will upend what 1980 brought, that’s a long-term view that overlooks the very real suffering that is going to happen to far too many people in the short term. If the idiocy that seems to be taking over internationally doesn’t lead us all into a really awful war, that is. Sometimes I think I’m watching the real life development of aspects of my Netwalk Sequence series. That’s a scary thing for a writer to contemplate, but Netwalk has always been a series that anticipates the future we’re heading into. Except for the Gizmo, that is. If we get a malevolent piece of alien technology attacking cities, then I’ll REALLY get worried.

But…on the positive side, this was the year that I sold the most books ever. Pledges of Honor has sold around 100 copies, both ebook and in hard copy, since its release in December of 2015. I’ve spent under $50 in promoting it, and got it out on some review sites. I didn’t do a lot of publicity with it and I wonder what would have happened with more. I released a novella prequel to Pledges, Beyond Honor, that has sold about 20 copies. Not surprising as it’s not as compelling a story, plus it is part of the process of ramping up to write the next book in the series, Challenges to Honor. Two short stories in the Goddess’s Honor series, Birth of Sorrow and The Goddess’s Choice, are selling in bits and pieces. This makes me happy that I took the rights back from eTreasures publishing, and has me making raspberries at those publishers who did reject the book before eTreasures. If little ol’ indie me could make these sales on my own without a lot of publicity, then what could have happened with publisher support? Oh well, no publisher is getting their hands on this one until the series is complete. Then I might talk.

The Netwalk Sequence series has been disappointing in sales this year. I released Netwalk’s Children in November 2015 and it went nowhere. Because I wanted to finish the series, I went ahead and wrote Netwalking Space, and it is on track for a late January/February release. That wraps up the series as I can’t afford to spend any more time writing Netwalk’s Descendants with that poor a return on Children, and I’ve made Space as standalone as I can. I did get the amazing David Rivet back to do this final cover, which thrills me to no end. It feels strange to not be thinking about what’s next in Netwalk, but such is the way of things. There will be a far future sequel but that is at least a year off, because I have other projects I want to develop. I will also reissue three novelettes in the Sequence in an omnibus edition sometime this year. Maybe I’ll write the rest of the Disruption Chronicles subseries short stories, but it’s unlikely at this time, unless Space really takes off.

0594-netwalking-space-cover

I did also have short stories come out this year. I have one story, “Glorianna,” in the NIWA anthology, Artifact, available here. I also have a story, “Tricksters, Horses, and Beer,” in How Beer Saved the World 2. My short story “Witch Trails” came out in Allegory and is available here.

I’ve already got a couple of pieces in the upcoming Campcon anthology, Steam. And Dragons, which will have preorders available in February and be on sale in March. One is with a pseudonym I’m going to play with a little bit. I’m also hoping for some other sales of the short stories I have on hand and are circulating, but not holding my breath. As the sales of “Witch Trails” and “Glorianna” show, it seems like my short stories need to age for about ten years before they find a home if I’m selling them cold, with no links to the publisher.

I have yet to sit down and draft my writing plan for the year yet, but tentatively, I’m going to be releasing the sequel to Pledges of Honor, Challenges to Honor, this year. I have a side project that I plan to develop and send out to select small press publishers before publishing it myself. I also have loose notes and a running start at a Weird West novella, Bearing Witness and notes on an alternate history Weird West featuring the Pacific Northwest becoming its own country in the 1820s-1840s (maybe later), with an alliance of former fur trappers and Native peoples against the British, US, and Spanish. There’s also a rodeo-themed far future space opera with lizard aliens, Converted horses, and duels between human riders and sentient horses that are threatened by the rise of a plasmoid-based species seeking to take over the Universe. I’m thinking that this year I am going to sit down with these projects and create packets for each that resemble submission query packets–that is, full synopses, worldbuilding, and perhaps even the first three chapters–so that I can just pull up a project and get to work on it. Given that the amount of snow and cold this winter is bringing is going to limit my horseback time, and given that I still can’t wrench my ski boots on over my bum ankle, I’ve got plenty of time to get things together.

Moving on from the writing, 2016 brought me back into regular teaching. I got a call from my old district to come back and do special education academic eligibility testing, and that also led to my current online gig teaching online PE and Health (cue jokes). I also renewed my license for five more years, and have substituted here in Enterprise. I’d still like to find a sped consulting gig, but Portland is full of people like me, and there’s not much of a call for it here in NE Oregon that I can see so far. Still, I’m happy to have my hand back in the game at this level. I don’t know that I would want to be back in the classroom full time again, but we’ll see.

I also may have found my bazaar home in Enterprise. I spent two weekends at the Jingle through Joseph bazaar and did reasonably well, all things considered. I am easing back into doing crafts and arts for sale, including jewelry. I’m making further plans for connections in that world.

This was also the year that Mocha got healthy and made the transition to being a ranch horse. She still does the occasional goofy stuff like jumping into an ice-covered creek thinking it was solid, but for the most part she has adapted to being part of a herd on pasture and seems to prefer that to being penned or stalled, even in the coldest subzero weather. I spent the summer turning her into a steady road horse, and by fall, we were doing seven mile rides on a loose rein. She showed signs of lameness whenever I’d ride her in the arena, but if I rode her in the field or on the road, she was sound. By the end of fall, before the first snowfall, however, she was ready to go back into the arena and work. We did get out on a couple of trail rides and that is going to be our next year’s priority.

The garden in Clatskanie really took off this year. We are still harvesting carrots and beets from it, still have some winter squash, had potatoes that lasted through December, lots of dried and frozen peppers, and cabbage in storage. We’ve frozen corn and carrots, and I made both zucchini and corn relish. The Gravenstein in Portland produced a bumper crop and we made applesauce plus froze apples for cooking. It’s hard to get used to needing to buy some veggies now!

Enough blathering. I have a horse to see and plans to write.

Comments Off on 2016 in summary–writing, day jobbe, horse stuff, garden

Filed under year end review

A year of changes

2014 was definitely a transition year. We started it out by making an offer on a house in Enterprise and making a commitment toward…well, at least a lifestyle spent between Portland and Northeastern Oregon. A return to the roots of our marriage, so to say.

This was also the year that I walked away from teaching. Everyone else around me calls it “retirement.” I don’t call it that, not really. For one thing, I’m too damn young to be retiring, at fifty-seven. For another, it was something I had to do, not something that I planned for due to age and appropriate rewards and such. I made it to ten years, but the last four were a battle, and I’m angry about how and why it happened. Oh, I left in good standing. My last review was bad only because my kids didn’t make the test score goal I set, and I’m fully aware that it was a statistical game that could have been massaged and tweaked to show better results. I didn’t leave because I was forced out.

I left because I could no longer honestly collaborate in what we’re doing to our kids. I left because I could no longer condone the shell that special education is becoming. I left because I had no more strength to fight back, and to remain longer would take a further toll on my physical and emotional health.

I didn’t want to leave. But I almost stayed too long, for my own good. And I’m angry about it.

I still want to do something in education. But I won’t go out and get a doctorate, because I refuse to put myself through that level of torture for diminishing returns. I’d love to find some tutoring gigs, or consulting gigs, or something. However, the time hasn’t been right. I’ve needed time to rest and recover, and figure out where I’m going to be and how much time I’m going to commit to the education part of my life. That plan is going to be several years in the making.

Meanwhile, there’s the writing. This past fall, I suddenly (hmm, about midway through the semester, about conference time) switched from Teacher Brain to Retail Artisan Brain. After that oh shit I’m not ready for the season moment, I hustled, and I’m honestly proud of how quickly I brought things together. But it was hard, pounding work and I didn’t get a lot of immediate return on it. These things are a learning curve, though, and one thing I have planned to do–probably during my down time in Enterprise this weekend–is to sit down and plan out a publishing schedule for next year which takes into consideration Amazon Kindle Select schedules, holiday schedules, special event schedules, and so on. I used to do this for my jewelry. Now it’s time to put it together for my writing. Since I have a better idea of what’s what and how long it takes me to put something together, I think I can create a schedule which allows for both self-publication and outside submission deadlines. I need to get a handle on promotion as well (famous last words).

Look, I managed to figure out how to get on the Amazon Top 100 for two publications, one of which lasted dang near all of December. I’ve been a Writers of the Future SemiFinalist. I know I can take the writing to the next level. It’s time to get serious about it and lay out the projects and put down the words.

The big issue is time. Carving out time to write, carving out time to blog, carving out time to promote, carving out time to live.

I’ve also decided to get back into the craft world, so I’m going to be making more noise about creating and selling jewelry again. Part of my plans for the office in Enterprise incorporates a jewelry-making and sewing space. I don’t delude myself that I sew well enough to sell my work, but, then again, maybe so.

But I also want time to breathe mountain air, and exist on hillsides while gazing at stunning views. I want to ride my horse across rolling hillsides.

And I want to be able to create a nest that is all our own. I want all these things, but I want to be able to live, to breathe, to enjoy. To move the earth somehow, to change things for the better. To leave this world a little bit–or even a greater bit–better because of something I managed to do.

That’s what 2015 is going to be about.

Comments Off on A year of changes

Filed under year end review

A quiet Christmas

In past years, I’ve spent Christmas running around doing this or that. When the son was still in school, I was also active in the church and doing Christmas Eve mass liturgies, either as reader or singer. Then, when teaching, there was always the crazy buzzing around as we counted down from Thanksgiving until Christmas. We had to do productive work, but whatever unit I brought on line had to be quick, easy to do, and fun. I did like turning the Christmas/winter picture books into one act plays (Jan Brett books are great for this) as a class writing project, but as test scores became more important and I got sucked into doing more paperwork stuff and test prep stuff, the plays went into the trash heap. Too bad, because I think the kids enjoyed doing them. Oh well.

This year was definitely a transition year. Sometime in October I suddenly switched out of Teacher Brain and into Retail Artisan Brain, otherwise known as oh crap I have NOTHING READY FOR CHRISTMAS PROMOTION. So, um, I’ve been fixing that. I know I’ve commented on this before, but between urgent rush production stuff, scrambling to meet some anthology deadlines, bringing horse back into condition, and other stuff, I’ve–uh–been busy and not being paying a lot of attention to the house and to the season. Knowing it’s a transitional year is also an issue, plus, damn it, the snow levels are such that I’ve not wanted to go up skiing yet (and, in fact, there’s not been enough snow to contemplate skiing unless I really wanted to turn my skis into rock skis).

Last week I also did something incredibly stupid and bricked my phone. Then I panicked, and went to my cell phone provider to deal with it instead of Apple. Needless to say, I’ve learned that going direct to Apple is the wiser course these days, and had many thanks for my son who helped me recover from the idiocy. But that was a day and a half or so lost due to dealing with those issues.

And then last Saturday, with a holiday book reading, was kind of the end of the promotional year. I did put Christmas Shadows out as a separate story e-book,  put it into Kindle Unlimited, set it to go free on Christmas Eve, and I’m now mulling over the results. Very interesting. I did make it into the Amazon Top 100 Free Under One Hour Romance list–well, okay, on last look I was still there. I think my highest was 45 and last look was 59. Hmmm. Food for thought.

Meanwhile, a good friend shattered her heel while setting up an artisan shop. I’m trying to pop in and see her a couple of times a week and help out when I can. There’s other local friends with issues. Plus the remodeling at Farpoint is now kicking into high gear, and we’re probably going for the home stretch big finale now. I have many things to do, and I’m scattered between all of them. Things like making curtains, buying construction materials, etc.  Shoot, the “buying curtain fabric” stuff ended up taking about three hours and two trips, in the long run.

So yeah. This year was a quiet Christmas. Yesterday, hubby, the son, and I went out for breakfast. Then hubby and I went to the barn while the son went to do tech stuff for a friend. We gathered in the early evening and had dinner, presents, and veged out. More vegging today with a nice breakfast, pizza for lunch, and then Peacock Lane and leftovers for dinner. I worked on a story I have due to an editor (rough draft almost done, yay) until I’d thrashed that thing to death, then cut out curtains before going to Peacock Lane. I worked a little bit on a show ribbon wreath this evening, and I’m now fading.

The year heads on toward its conclusion. 2015 is going to bring in a new era. Damn, I hope I can pull some of this stuff off.

Comments Off on A quiet Christmas

Filed under year end review

Looking back at 2013

I’m lagging a bit behind other folks this year in looking at what’s been going on in 2013, and, well, I guess that’s just the way things are these days.

So. 2013. A lot of stuff happened in 2013.

Professionally, I continue to see what it takes to recover in a school setting after several years of poor management. It takes a long time for a school community to renew itself after these circumstances, but it can happen. I took some interesting literacy classes focusing on the work of a major theorist in the field (Regie Routman) and found further support for the integration of neuroscience and education. Primarily, such linkages don’t come from “brain-based learning” techniques but through right brain resonances between teacher-student and student-student. I’ve also come to the conclusion that a certain degree of grammar understanding is key to developing higher level comprehension skills.

I’ve also developed a passionate dislike for high-stakes assessment and what prioritizing that does to a community of learners. Make no mistake, I think a single assessment and standards are necessary. But prioritizing tests and test-taking as the highest priority to the exclusion of the acquisition of other, necessary learning crashes and burns horribly. We are losing huge chunks of kids as a result of this test-driven culture. And that’s a rant in and of itself.

On the writing front, I’ve had some mixed successes. Several anthologies I’ve been in are doing reasonably well. I sold two books, a full length novel and a novella, to a small press. I brought out two independently published books and am working on more in that series. But I’ve not had the time to more aggressively pursue writing to the degree I want to do it. Emotions around the day jobbe, the fatigue of not only the day jobbe but the commute (80+ miles round trip each day) and the inability to keep on burning the candle at both ends have all interfered.

Mocha did spectacularly well (in my opinion) at this year’s show in September. She placed well and showed that she is particularly strong in Trail classes. Right now, though, she’s sidelined with a mild lameness that is tied into neck and shoulder muscle spasms. Light work seems to be helping, along with some massage techniques.

Skiing–um, well, no snow so far this year. I’m not enthused about skiing in low snow conditions and so the snow dances continue.

Personally–well, we’re looking at some huge changes ahead. Good changes, but scary, dramatic, and they’ve involved a lot of planning and worrying and agonizing. More on that later.

At least I seem to be reasonably healthy at the moment. It took most of the year to regain my flexibility from a hip muscle strain. My gut is still cranky but it’s settling, enough to give me hope that these upcoming changes will make it even happier. It’s amazing what ten minutes of yoga a day will do. My knees are making creaky and stiff noises at me, but I’m beginning to think that’s a sign that one particular pair of shoes have reached the end of their useful life, or else that I need to do something different for urban sidewalk hikes.

And so I march slowly into 2014, cautiously hoping that good things are coming. Just not sure about that.

Comments Off on Looking back at 2013

Filed under year end review

Farewell 2012, welcome 2013

2012 was a very tough year in many ways.  We got clobbered by a lot of medical stuff and I got to know Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital faaaar too well.  But we also lost a dear friend, and other friends died, and bad stuff kept on happening to people, and, and, and….

Yeah.  On the good side, I got a new principal at school and that is working well.  Downside is that I am also now aware that I am tired of commuting the distance I do for the small amount of hours that I officially work.  That issue got obscured by poor administration the past few years, and it’s really only been this year that I’ve been able to confirm this feeling.  This is not news to the union or my superiors, I’ve been pretty honest with them about it.  On the good side, for the first time in years, I feel like I have an administrator that I can collaborate with, work with, and actually talk about effective teaching strategies.  I have ideas that kind of excite me…but I’m also wiped out.  I have to fight technology to do some of the things I want to do.  But….

Meanwhile, the writing work has gone nowhere in 2012.  Some of that was due to spending too damn much time in rewrites, but rewrites got slowed down by a sequence of nasty life rolls.  On the other hand, the River anthology is up for an Epic Award, so hey, coolness!  Nonetheless, 2013 is going to be about a resumption of The Discipline.  I am going to finish the Netwalk Sequence then, and move on to other work.  Pledges of Honor is going to go into aggressive marketing mode.  And I am going to write three new stories in rough draft before I go back to working on novel stuff.  I have all three of these stories roughly sketched out; it’s time to write them.

Mocha did well this year with no significant lameness spells.  I appear to be hitting on the right balance of work, juju and schooling to keep her going.  But we shall see.  I’d like to do at least one show with her this coming year, and do better at reining.  I want to get her comfortable with countercanter and into reliable tempi changes, as well as half-pass at the canter.  It’d also be nice if we could manage some trail rides…

I slacked off too much on physical conditioning this year.  Some of this is due to a protracted spell of back muscle pain which has affected some things I do…other parts are just due to the fact that I hurt all over.  I’m planning to start addressing this through acupuncture and taking some Pilates classes this winter (both already scheduled).I’m also going to get my boot liners checked to make sure I haven’t packed them all in–I’ve got 150-200 runs or so in on them.  Probably time to redo them.  I also need to lose 10 pounds that I appear to have gained over the past year.

So.  For 2013, I need to find a new job that’s closer to home.  That could take a while but I’m determined to do it.

I am going to continue with a consistent schooling program with Mocha.

I’m also going to stay on top of conditioning this year.

When it comes to writing, I’m going to reestablish keeping accountability metrics such as word counts going.  I think I need that to keep me honest and writing.  In fact, when I finish this post, I’m off to Excel to set it up.

I’ve set up a fairly ambitious writing and publishing plan for this year, involving republishing some old nonfiction work from the 90s, indie publishing a quirky novella, publishing the rest of the Netwalk Sequence, and writing entirely new short stories and maybe even a novel.  I want to pursue indie publishing and traditional publishing simultaneously, with the indie being for my quirkier stuff that’s harder to market and sell.  But I still plan to keep on working the traditional publishing side of things as well, because hey, one never knows when the lightning will strike but it won’t strike if you aren’t out there.

Day job is a harder call.  I’m spread way too thin.  As it is, I know the next few months will be horrific and difficult.  I don’t see any way around it.  IEP and eligibility schedules are pretty much cast in stone.  I also have to keep on learning a new curriculum and program, and that’s a challenge.  At least one day in the week ahead of me is going to be spent preparing for the teaching side of my job, so the special ed case manager can spend all her time doing her paperwork and testing and scheduling for the next two months and….oh dear god, I still have papers to grade.  Sigh.  But on the other hand, I want to play with new technologies and acquire the skills to work with people over Skype–did a little bit of this in tutoring this fall and I liked it.  I also want to eventually get to the point where I can run PowerPoint-based intros to the classes for the day and get the kids rolling that way.  As my current setup is structured, I’m not in a good position for an entry task in my Social Studies and I really do miss it.  Gotta figure out how to get it in (for nonteachers, the entry task is something you train the students to automatically start work on the minute they get into the classroom.  It can be writing something, it can be a math problem…whatever it is, it creates the expectation of getting to work immediately while giving you time to set up, take roll, deal with stragglers, etc).  I have entry routines for the two classes in my own classroom.  But the class I share with another teacher, where I come in as she finishes, and the kids stay in the room…I haven’t gotten an entry task to work yet.  Still figuring it out).

I guess that with the day job, my priority is going to be to remain sane and balanced.  And be looking for something to reduce the commute distance.

I do want to finish off the Interpersonal Neurobiology certificate program.  But right now that has to take a back burner to day job  re-inventing and the writing career.  Winter term is just too crazy.  But will there ever be a time when that isn’t the case?

Miscellaneous stuff–I want to start doing handwork again, whether it is embroidery or jewelry.  I need to read more (as a result, I’m now posting stuff on Goodreads as I finish reading a book).  I need to watch more movies.  More, more, more.

Oh well.  2012 is almost over here in PDX, and it’s about time to sign off, enjoy my candles and woodstove, and crack open the bubbly.  I plan to greet the New Year’s by spinning my lighted poi in the front yard.  Maybe there’ll be snowflakes as well.

Happy New Year, everyone.  May 2013 be wonderful.

Comments Off on Farewell 2012, welcome 2013

Filed under year end review

The dreaded year-end review

2011 was definitely the year of ups and downs.  Ups and downs throughout my life and career, ups and downs that are still reverberating through my days.

The down part is definitely the Day Jobbe.  Not a lot of details for public consumption, just that there’s a lot not going the way it should there, and it could get worse.  On the other hand, eight years in one place is a good thing and perhaps it is time to move on and do something new.  The next three months should (I hope!) tell the tale.

Mocha spent a good portion of the year being off in her right shoulder, off and on until the very end of the year when she started stabilizing.  Good pieces from that part of the life is that she’s moving better, more effectively, and we’re able to do a heck of a lot more than I thought we could.  Show plans may very definitely lie ahead of us for the summer and fall.

2011 was a very good writing year.  I sold six short stories, two of which will be coming out soon and one which is due to be reprinted in a collection featuring the “Monthly Bests” from that publisher’s magazines.  I also sold a political essay with a picture.  Additionally, Netwalk is now live as an indie-published e-book and more stories in the sequence will be coming up soon.  I have three short stories unrelated to The Netwalk Sequence to get written and sent out, plus at least one novella and probably more Netwalk Sequence pieces to put up.  We’ll see where all this takes me.

Personal life is good, health is decent (but with one cloud hanging over me right now).  DH and I went to a lot of music shows this year and ended out the year in San Francisco at the Furthur show.  The New Year’s Eve show was quite the spectacle, climaxing with a huge dragon cruising around the venue.  Good stuff.

2012 looks to be a year of changes.  Here’s hoping they’re all good ones.

No resolutions, save to maintain my current weight, advance in my writing career, and find some new way to tweak/maximize/expand my special ed teaching career.   Oh, and have horse ready to show.

That should keep me busy.

Comments Off on The dreaded year-end review

Filed under year end review