Happy New Year, 2021

This year had good parts and bad parts. Let’s talk about the good ones.

I published my first full-length novel, Mara and the Trolls. I started writing it in the 2011-2012 timeframe, and it started appearing online in 2013. If you look at the copyright information, that’s where the 2013 comes from. Around 2017-2018 I started submitting it to publishing houses and agents, and got nothing. The places that advertise ‘we respond to all submissions!’ didn’t reply to mine. So be it.

I started editing it for real in late 2017 or early 2018, I forget when exactly. Initially I had mixed intents, either traditional publishing or self publishing, but as time went on, I decided the heck with it, I’m self publishing. I knew I could get that done on bile and determination alone, whereas with traditional publishing, my work was in someone else’s hands.

You can control inputs, not outputs. Having a traditionally published book is an output. Self publishing a book is an input.

Between 2016 and 2018 I was working at as an engineer at what was probably the best job I’ve ever had. I liked my boss, I liked my coworkers, I liked the work. The pay was good. I was miserable. I realized at the time that this was as good as an engineering job involving me working for someone else was going to get, and if I didn’t like this, it was my problem not the job. I still believe that. Bloodharvest and Mara were both close to completion, and it was just so easy not to do anything. I gave my boss two months notice (I really did like the guy) and set the company up for success as best I could. Then I moved to Denver. I finished Bloodharvest, published it, and learned basically how to do the deed.

In 2019, Mara evolved into her current form. I was in California when Ms. Fawkes sent me the second edits, and I realized the book was largely done. I got those edits around June, and over the next six, seven months finished. I hate editing. The ending was rewritten about 10 times. Other people went through it.

The artwork was done by Fergal O’Connor. He sent me scans in late 2019, and sent the originals to my permanent address outside DC. I’ve still never seen them. My living arrangements in Denver were not so good.

Mara went through copyediting and went to the layout people, and that took until around June 2020. It was published in collected form the first time on Amazon in June.

Within a month, it was down again. Misspellings, errors, duplicated words, and words that shouldn’t be there abounded. There were just problems. I’ve read a fair number of self-published books, and everyone who said they ‘didn’t need an editor or proofreader’ was wrong. Many wives and husbands, parents, boy- and girlfriends, and friends in general did editing pro bono. All the books needed more. I’d had the (professional) copyeditor and a parent go through the MS, but frankly, it just wasn’t enough. A lot of people touched the MS after the copyeditor, and I’m happy with her work. But Mara needed more professional help.

So two more proofreaders went through it, it got laid-out again, and republished in October and November as an ebook and paperback respectively. I was having problems in life, but Mara went live again.

If you do find a typo, please let me know, but I hope you don’t.

Total cost to me was about $10k, quitting my job, a fulltime year of my life, and a lot of questioning. BH cost about half that. Here we are.

In early 2020, mid-first-lockdown, I moved and started a PhD program at the University of Denver. I’m not enamored of DU but it is a good school. In 2011-2013 I did my Masters in Physics at George Mason, and that was not a good school. DU isn’t perfect, but I’ve got lab access here. I can work on projects. I can do research, and the faculty is helpful. A foot behind me a test apparatus is curing, and with a little luck I’ll be taking data within a week. I like it here.

Covid hit DU hard. It’s a challenge.

Through all that, 2020 happened. This was just a hell of a year, wasn’t it? I played very small parts in world events. A lot of people tell me they feel like side characters in their own lives. They talk about the USA as if it’s full of other people, the doings of roommates. They, and I, feel like we’re doing little. My part in the pandemic was little more than wearing a mask and avoiding family, and my role in politics, protests, and confrontation was no bigger. Yet in a country of 330 odd million (census is coming out soon), everyone’s small actions cause huge changes. We the bit characters are the players. We are drama before Thespis.

As a premise, I discount the notion Covid 19 was human caused. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and I haven’t seen it. But everything else was people being people, and the huge majority of those people were people like me, doing little things, not doing little things, struggling. People, little people, made up the events of this year. People cast the votes, took to the streets, and spoke their minds.

And the people who took the other side are people too. The people who voted against me have reasons they hold as seriously as mine. The people who refuse to wear a mask have reasons, and controlling their actions isn’t given to me. Nor is argument terribly useful.

Ever been on Twitter? Did you say anything? When someone told you ‘No, you’re wrong, you’re stupid, educate yourself,’ did it persuade you of anything? I suppose that’s fine if you’re playing to your base, but it’s not a useful thing to say if you’re trying to persuade others. If you want to do something with people, beating or arguing them into agreement just doesn’t work.

It doesn’t matter if it’s as objective as .. + .. = …. or subjective as ‘do you like this individual?’ You can’t force agreement. And if you’re right but you burn that bridge, that person will oppose you in every potential conflict forever more. Humans live 60-100 years on average. That’s a lot of future potential conflicts.

People are all of their past history projected at once. The present is a cutaway of our histories, laid out like geological sediment suddenly exposed by a fault. We see each other as we appear now, and yet we see ourselves as all of the moments we’ve ever been, drawn together into a line.

I’m still the little kid at Herndon Elementary, looking up at colorful posters on the walls. They hang signs on the walls at DU, and they’re eye level for an average person, so I look down at them. To me, I’m still that kid. And I’m me now. Recently I met a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in ten years. He didn’t recognize me.

2020 was a heck of a year.

Good luck, everyone. Happy New Years, and I’m rooting for you.

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