What I did in 2013

Every year at this time I take a look back at my productivity and try to make sense of it. I’ve done this for two years running (see 2012 & 2011). Typically I flip through my daily calendar to capture some of the highlights but I’m on the road for a few days and don’t have that book with me. Kind of don’t need it.

NOVELS: This year was all about writing TIMoNY, a historical fantasy that’s been in my head for a while. It’s a big book, clocking in at 120K+ words, involving a lot of research. In hindsight, this was not the right year for me to tackle such a thing, but when do we ever get to choose what life slings at us? The first draft took only two months, but those weren’t consecutive days. I lost a lot of time accompanying Denise, my wife, on her book tour in spring and summer. I’m tweaking and polishing the book this month, and intend to share with my agent first. If she thinks it’s worth submitting to publishers, I’ll go that route before self-pubbing. I completed another novel, The Marshal of the Borgo, in January 2013, but didn’t do much with it all year because I was too consumed by TIMoNY to do anything about Borgo. I hope to do those edits and have Borgo proofed and pubbed by spring. I also started a second book in the Mesmerist series. This year I hope to write two novellas featuring those characters. If nothing else, TIMoNY convinced me I should be writing shorter books.

PRINT EDITIONS: In 2013 I taught myself how to do interior book design, and hope to issue paperbacks of all my current self-pub books by spring. I should be issuing paperbacks when I pub the ebooks to eliminate the hassle, but for a long time I feared the learning curve associated with doing print books.

SHORT STORIES: Check me. Last year I said I would not devote so much time to short stories, but I broke that rule in 2013. Granted, the four stories which appeared this year—one in Plots With Guns, and three in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine—were all submitted in 2012. In 2013 AHMM bought two more of my shorts as well; they’ll be pubbed in 2014. Writing shorts is a great break from travel, writing big books, and family responsibilities. But if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that I’m flattered to be paid something for my fiction. And right now, when so little of my self-pubbed fiction is selling, I crave that validation as a sign that I’m doing something right. So if yeah, there will be more shorts this year, if only to serve as an ego-boost. I plan to release the AHMM shorts as ebooks when the terms of their contract expire.

SELF-PUB: Speaking of which, this year I earned a little less from my self-pubbed books than I did last year. About $315 total, as compared with $330 last year. Most of that was from sales of my nonfiction book, The Scientist and the Sociopath. That means I still have not broken even on this three-years-running experiment, but I don’t care. I know the market has changed substantially but I remain optimistic about self-pubbing. In 2013 I continued to resist the idea of serious marketing, and I think I’m justified in holding back. My feeling is that I should have at least two or three books in a series up before I make a move to promote beyond announcing my releases here and in my Twitter feed. If only I could figure out why I keep writing the first books of various new series over and over again.

GHOSTWRITING: This is how I really earn my living, so I can’t walk away from this. (Yet.) Two of my ghosted books came out in 2013: Blind Spot, a nonfiction science book written with Dr. Gordon Rugg, and another deep-ghost title written for a guy in the sports-entertainment field. The sports figure dude’s fans are not traditional book buyers. They don’t walk into bookstores often, if ever. They don’t shop on Amazon either. But they do buy his hardcover at full price at sporting events because they perceive it as a collectible. Dr. Rugg’s book is doing well among academic libraries and ebook buyers who snag anything dealing with the realm of computer science. A book Denise ghosted for a veteran actress also pubbed in 2013. I’ve already lined up one paying project for 2014. Won’t know if I can talk about it until I see the contract.

ATOMIC: The big story in our household in 2013 was the success of Denise’s book, The Girls of Atomic City. It hit the NYT Bestseller list multiple times. Denise is gearing up for another tour in March when the ebook and audiobook pub. I won’t be going on as many trips with her this time around, and thus hope to maintain a fairly steady workflow.

FRIENDS & FAMILY: When Denise’s book hit the bestseller list, some friends here in town threw her a party. “It feels good to know that it can happen to someone you know,” one of them said. I feel the same way, and 2013 saw two friends hit lists. Robert Swartwood became a USA Today bestseller with his book The Serial-Killer’s Wife. Susan Kushner Resnick, a friend from my college days, hit the New York Times Bestseller list for her nonfiction book, You Saved Me, Too.

In 2013 my parents sold their home in New Jersey and moved west to California, leaving me a Jersey orphan. I no longer have a place to crash when I’m in the New York City area, but they will be happier living among their grandkids in warmer climes.

In 2013, we lost more friends. One was Bill Wilcox, a nonagenarian historian Denise befriended during the writing of Atomic. He was a good man with a fine mind, and I’ll miss him.

So yeah, 2013: good things, sad things. Like every year that ever was. As I said earlier: When do we ever get to choose what life slings at us?