A Brief Look Back

howard in chairLast year about this time I looked back over the year and seemed to think I had my deadline issues under control and that I was in more balance, but it turns out I was deceiving myself. Honestly, I still haven’t figured out a non-stressful way to deal with deadlines, and I’m still not in balance, although I try.

On the plus side, I continue to have a wonderful, supportive family.

This year has had its challenges, only some of which I’ve alluded to. My mother continues her long slow fade into Alzheimer’s, which is very sad to watch. My sleep apnea issues have returned in the last couple of months, so I guess it’s time for another appointment to see if the med team can figure out what’s wrong again. Sleep apnea sure beats diabetes or cancer or any number of other terrible diseases, but I’d be lying if I’d say it doesn’t suck to wake up feeling tired every single day.

hulk-smash-bench1-532x700On the plus side, my endurance and health are both up, thanks to taking up karate again. I’m still a few months out from actually advancing toward that second degree black belt. When you’re out for five years it takes a long time to re-learn the katas, or forms. My replacement ACL is holding up beautifully and all the exercise is strengthening it. It no longer feels like my “bad leg” and I’m no longer instinctively favoring it when I jump or run.

When it comes to writing, I remain fortunate to have contracts with two separate publishers and am working with two gifted editors. I finished writing three books this year, and while only one of them is fully polished, the others are solid drafts, and one of them is the longest book I’ve yet written, by a considerable margin. The new outlining technique I’ve mentioned several times while discussing writing technique is working very well for me. No, I’m still not as fast as I want to be, but I’m not as smart or as clever as I want to be, either. I remain a work in progress.

I hope visitors have been enjoying the blog. Visitor numbers are higher than ever, even though “Likes” and comments don’t seem appreciably more frequent. That may be because a lot of visitors comment on the Facebook page rather than here — which raises another interesting point, because recently it seems like FB “likes” don’t transfer from the FB page over to the web site. I’m not sure why, although I hear rumors about a changed FB policy.

girls numberI read some great books this year, and John Hocking, Bill Ward, and C.S.E. Cooney and I have been sharing our thoughts about them with you. We’ll continue to do so in the coming year.

One of the strangest things is that although I’ve been working persistently and doggedly, there’s nothing now on the bookstore shelves to show for it. Three books are written, but two of them won’t be out until next year about this time. That’s disappointing to fans and to me, but it does give me a lot of lead time. For instance, the sequel to one of them already has a finished draft, and the sequel to the other series is under way. That means that when those books DO come out, fans won’t have to wait that long to see the next installment. Hopefully I’ll be better positioned to really push my career forward.

As I look into the next year I see that I’ll be facing some new challenges — my first born will be headed off to a college that’s several hours away. I’m proud of him but I know I’ll miss him terribly. His absences will alter my relationship with my daughter, who will be the only child in the house. That won’t be quite like having an only child, but it will feel a little bit that way.

There will be more books to write, more horse fence to repair, and further surprises and challenges. May it be that those surprises will be pleasant, and that we stay happy, healthy, and successful. I’ll have fingers crossed that we can meet challenges gracefully and that mostly good things lie before us.

As for me, I’ll do my best to keep seeking balance, and strive always to be a better father, husband, friend, and writer. Here’s hoping for a good year for all you good people out there. May you meet your own challenges with brave faces, and come through stronger.

9 Comments on “A Brief Look Back

  1. Hey Howard,
    Thanks for this update. I am also seeking better balance, but from a bit different perspective. I had my firstborn this year. Yours went to college. It is hard to elaborate while typing on my tablet, but your experience makes me reflect on the urgency I have had this year to write and hurry up to make this a family supporting career. I’m far from that and this has been a hard year because of that, but your story made me sit back and think about how much I will miss my son when he goes away. Granted, I have made spending time with him a priority, I still have not been as thankful for this year as I should be. I too have been tired about everyday, though maybe not like you. I’m again sorry to hear about that being a hindrance. I also hope to hone my outlining skills this year to get more out of my time. Good luck! And, I also am embarking into martial arts after a long recovery from a groin pull three years ago. I’m now an orange belt in tae kwon do. It is hard convincing my wife that we should pay each month, but I love the exercise, and I feel like I need that experience considering the action I write. Here’s to hoping we stay injury free. Have a great start to the new year, Howard.

    • Timothy, thanks for the heartfelt note. You’re being too hard on yourself.

      I can remember when I was a father with young children and thought that, since I was spending so much time with them (I was a house dad most of the time, working from home freelance editing) that I’d never say “they grow up so fast” or “where did the time go.” But now I’m saying those things, or at least feeling them.

      Don’t neglect the family for the writing, but then don’t feel like you have to spend every spare moment interacting with your kid and telling him or her how every moment should be savored. You’ll end up driving the kid away and both of you nuts.

      And this whole writing career thing — it takes so long and even the hard-to-obtain book contract doesn’t equate with having a career. You can write your heart out and get great reviews and then have a bunch of people go “meh” or perhaps, more likely, simply walk past, never seeing it. Most of us with book contracts don’t really make a living at it. If you try to rush it to try to “make it” you’ll just drive yourself mad with frustration. I’ve had some real blue periods by approaching my writing that way. Be careful.

      Keep up with the martial arts. Not only is it good for your writing, it’s good for your health!

      May you have a wonderful year, with kind muses and supportive family.

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