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My Goals for 2022

It's almost 2022, somehow, so I wanted to share some of my big, huge, audacious goals for this year. If I don't share them with anyone, I think I'm less likely to accomplish them. So let's start with the goals related to writing–the core part of this website–and go from there.

Writing goals

This year, I will write and publish the following books:

This brings the total to eight books. That's a lot for twelve months, even when you consider that three of these books are already in some state of completion. But I want to push myself to do this. How else am I going to learn?

I will also post at least 100 times on this blog. This sounds like a lot, but it comes to about two posts per week. I already have a few posts scheduled in advance, so if I can batch-create posts, and then slowly post them over a few months, I think that will make things easier.

To reach this goal, I'll probably use AI writing software like Jarvis and Closer's Copy. I find writing blog posts, newsletter, etc. challenging, and using software like this often makes it easier, especially when it's a topic I don't have strong feelings about, e.g. the Best Writing Apps for iPad.

Business goals

This year, I will make $5k/month from selling books. This is the most intimidating goal to me. I know that other people can and have done this, but I keep running up against self-doubt. It's hard for me to write and release books rapidly, and I struggle with deciding between writing the kind of books I want to write and writing to market. Even when I read a lot of books in a subgenre, I'm not always sure what the market wants. Part of the reason I want to publish eight books in the next year is to make this number possible.

Kate Hall has a couple of really good books on rapid release and writing to market, which I plan to reread this January, if not sooner. I also want to reread the Chris Fox series on self-publishing. I would like to branch out a bit into indie and traditional publishing, ideally after I get more of a backlist.

I will make $20k/month from everything at least one month. That “everything” can include many things: books, ads on videos, consulting fees, speaking fees, freelance work, part-time or full-time work, courses, affiliate programs, physical products, digital products, NFTs, interest on stocks/funds/etc., and much more that I might not have even dreamed of yet. There are plenty of other people out there who make this kind of money in a month, so I'm trusting the universe to lead me to them and help me replicate what they do in my own life.

I will create a course this year. Yes, I know everyone and their grandmother is making a course. Now that everyone includes me.

I will also join at least three more affiliate programs. Ideally for companies whose products I use on a regular basis.

I will make an NFT, because I've been curious about the technology for awhile. I'm honestly somewhat skeptical of everything crypto, and I don't understand how a picture of a cartoon duck can be worth $80,000. It sounds like a scam. However, it's very easy to set up an account on OpenSea, so I'd like to try it.

Learning Goals

These goals are more flexible for me. I have limited free time, so I need to focus on writing, especially writing as a business. However I think learning is a lifelong activity, so I want to keep investing in learning, especially with time.

I will take 25 courses this year. That's about one every two weeks. I already have way more than 25 courses on Udemy, plus a number of courses on everything from Procreate to editing to Microsoft Excel. Some of these courses are brief, especially when you listen to them at 1.5 or 2x speed. The trick is not in finding the time to take the course, but finding time to do the assignments.

I'd like to focus on learning a few skills this year:

  • how to edit my own work quickly–and especially how to edit while the book is still at the outline stage.
  • how to draw. My artistic ability has waxed and waned with practice over the course of my life. Now I want to relearn the basics. Even if I just spend 2 minutes a night on drawing, I hope I'll see some improvement.
  • how to use Photoshop for basic photomanipulation and book cover design. I've barely used it since high school and I'd love to design my own book covers.
  • how to write and sell a song. I love music, so I'd like to learn a little more about songwriting. I don't want to perform but I'd love to hear other people performing my music. It also takes a lot less time to write a song than a novel, and (good) songs are much more memorable. However, I have so much planned for this year, realistically this might have to wait or at least take a backseat to other subjects.

This year I had a very scattershot focus, and I think everything suffered because of it. So I will probably go back to these goals in a few days and really focus on what is most important to me and what I want the most.

However, I feel compelled to post this to have some accountability. If no one knows what my goals are, then no one knows when I fail or succeed. And I'd rather celebrate with a group, even if it's a group of (mostly) strangers in cyberspace.

What are your goals for 2022? Let me know. Here's to a happy New Year!

Deprived of Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet, Game of Thrones, and the Audacity of Hope

I've discovered a new form of self-harm, which involves watching old clips of tv shows I used to love. It put me in a funk, and not the uptown kind. The worst depression came from this clip:

For those of you who never watched Game of Thrones (don't), the woman in armor is Brienne of Tarth, an incredibly brave and loyal warrior who is often mocked for being ugly and mannish. She's often dreamed of being a knight, but never thought it would actually happen. The man who knights her is Ser Jaime Lannister, a celebrated swordsman who has a long, complex, unconsummated relationship with her. These characters are preparing to defend Winterfell from the white walkers, ice zombies who can raise the dead and make them fight the living. It seems likely that everyone in that room is going to die horrible, violent deaths, and the dead will probably win. But for this one moment, Brienne became a knight, something she wants to be more than anything, thanks to the man she loves more than anyone.

Later episodes of the show undercut much of the pathos of this moment. Everyone in the room survives, even though they were often surrounded by dozens or hundreds of zombies. (Earlier seasons established that just one zombie could take six or seven men to kill, but no matter.) The zombies are defeated in one episode, and an apocalyptic threat gets relegated to a B-plot that ends without changing anything. Jaime and Brienne's relationship, spiritually consummated in this scene, ends like a bad Tinder hookup. The show makes many illogical leaps in space, time, and regeneration that other people have covered better and at greater length.

Despite all this, it's still a touching moment. It's sad, in part, because it represents the lost potential of the show, of a great tragedy that the audience was denied. By tragedy, I don't just mean “something sad that happened.” I mean a tragedy that flows naturally from the story, the characters, and the plot.

A tragedy is often a payoff from numerous setups that happen much earlier in the story. In Romeo and Juliet, the ultimate tragedy is set up over the course of the play, making the final scene that much more affecting. If Romeo and Juliet died out of nowhere, or if it ended with Romeo ditching Juliet and going on vacation, the play wouldn't have nearly the same impact.

A tragedy often includes an element of hope. Not all tragedies include this element–I don't think it's a necessary one–but they're often weaker without it. Consider how some tragedies, or semi-tragedies, end:

  • Romeo and Juliet: Though Romeo and Juliet are dead, their families have agreed to put aside their feud.
  • City Lights: Though the Tramp is still a tramp, and probably will be until he dies, the young woman he loves has her eyesight and a much better job. That's only possible because of him. When she finally sees him, she realizes everything he did for her. Even if they won't end up together, which they probably won't, the tramp can go to his grave knowing that he changed the life of the woman he loves.
  • Harold and Maude: Maude kills herself, leaving Harold alone. Angry and devastated, Harold takes his car out for one last ride–and escapes before the car crashes, creating yet another false suicide like he's done so many times before. This time, he's not expressing despair, but grabbing hold of life. He can go and love some more–maybe not today, but tomorrow.
  • Moulin Rouge!: Though Satine is dead, Christian's love for her, and her love for him, will live on forever, in eternity and in the novel Christian has written about their love. And in you, because you just watched the story.
  • Wit: Vivian dies, having realized some of her mistakes in life, and gets up, after death, to walk toward “a little light” and go on to the next stage.

It's a great sin to deprive your audience of a tragedy. They want it. They need it. Go open a newspaper, for God's sake, if you need to ask why. People need to cry. Give them something safe to cry about. You don't ever want them to feel stupid for caring.

Going over this reminds me of something Goethe once wrote. I don’t have the exact quote, so I’ll have to paraphrase. He wrote that anyone can take something beautiful and make it ugly, but it takes special care and attention to take something ugly and reveal the beauty inside. To take a wilted flower and show the beautiful fresh flower that it used to be. To show the hopeful, beautiful child inside a defeated, bitter person. Uglifying something beautiful might be shocking, but it's the easy way out. Don't take the easy way out. Don't take the easy way out. Give them something beautiful.

In Other News

I don't know how much pathos is in my upcoming serial, Wolf Cursed, but I hope it's at least acceptable. This is my take on the alpha/beta/omegaverse, fated/rejected mates, and everything that goes with it. I don't think I'll return to this genre once I'm finished with this, because it's not where my heart lies. However, I have enjoyed spending time with Red Volkov, Hannah Jordan, Alessandro D'Avalos, and all the other characters in the series. I'll have some character portraits and a sneak preview ready for you soon.

To be honest, this book has been a struggle to write. It's going to be on the Kindle Store for a few days before I take it down for some major edits. If you're interested in the story, get it now. You can get the second episode for free by signing up for my mailing list below:

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Right now I'm working on the audiobook for The Rose Kiss with the very talented Victoria McCabe. I'm coming perilously close to burnout, and I'm not sure what the next step is. And the pandemic has been taking a psychological toll, even though I'm vaccinated with a booster. I hope you'll bear with me in this difficult season, so we can find out what happens to these characters together. That's why I write. I want to see what happens…


Feature photo by Arash Payam on Unsplash.

A photo of the earth from space, featuring a small part of a spaceship in the foreground.

Adventures in Translation

I have been experimenting with DeepL, A.I. translation software used by authors like Joanna Penn. It's apparently a good way to get a rough draft of a translation, though it does need to be reviewed by human eyes before publication. I'd really like to translate a few of my books when I get a larger backlist, but the expense is prohibiting me from even thinking about it. If these translations are halfway decent, and not just Google Translate 1.5, then that might be an option!

Here's where you can help. If you speak French, German, Spanish, or Japanese, look at the translation examples below and tell me (in the comments or, if you're getting this as an email, in a reply) how accurate and fluid the translation is. The translations are based on this passage from The Rose Kiss:

On the night of the autumn equinox, the forest was not silent. Two mounted soldiers blocked the Route Forestière, listening to the crickets, the high winds, and the howling wolves. Commander Comtois, the older of the two, lifted his lamp. Rapid hoofbeats filled the quiet.

“Whoa, there,” said Sergeant Sicard, a redheaded young soldier, as his horse danced and bit against her bridle. The hoofbeats were slowing and drawing closer, but the path ahead still looked empty. Sicard crossed himself and looked to the stars.

“It’ll roar again tonight. That thing,” Sicard said, gesturing with his lamp to the woods. “Do you know what it is?” His commander, a man with a face like granite, did not reply. The hoofbeats were now slow, deliberate, and close; a gray-muzzled horse had turned a corner on the path and was approaching them in the darkness. The horse’s rider wore a hooded cloak made for a body twice his size. Folds of fabric obscured his face and hands.

Sicard readjusted his lantern, casting shadows through the trees.

Here it is in French:

La nuit de l'équinoxe d'automne, la forêt n'est pas silencieuse. Deux soldats à cheval bloquaient la Route Forestière, écoutant les grillons, les vents violents et les loups hurlants. Le commandant Comtois, le plus âgé des deux, a levé sa lampe. Des bruits de sabots rapides ont envahi le silence.
“Whoa, là,” dit le sergent Sicard, un jeune soldat roux, alors que son cheval dansait et mordait contre sa bride. Les bruits de sabots ralentissaient et se rapprochaient, mais le chemin devant lui semblait toujours vide. Sicard se croisa et regarda les étoiles.
“Il va encore rugir ce soir. Cette chose,” dit Sicard en désignant les bois avec sa lampe. “C'est quoi? Vous savez?” Son commandant, un homme au visage de granit, ne répondit pas. Les bruits de sabots étaient maintenant lents, délibérés et rapprochés ; un cheval au museau gris avait tourné un coin du chemin et s'approchait d'eux dans l'obscurité. Le cavalier portait une cape à capuchon faite pour un corps deux fois plus grand que lui. Des plis de tissu cachaient son visage et ses mains.
Sicard réajusta sa lanterne, projetant des ombres à travers les arbres.

My French is a little rouillé, so I'm not sure how fluid this translation is. I changed a few things to make them sound better. And I'm not sure how “un home au visage de granit” translates in French. I imagine there are a few other things that would stick out to a native speaker.

I would also probably have to change the title. As I understand it, the word “baiser” (to kiss) is also a euphemism for sex. As in the physical act of love, not the differences between men and women. It might be better to call it something like L'amour des Roses, La Mariée à la Rose, or La Rose Belladonna. Something to this effect, anyway.

I have a fair number of German-speaking and Germany-based readers, so here it is in German:

In der Nacht der Herbst-Tagundnachtgleiche war der Wald nicht still. Zwei berittene Soldaten versperrten die Route Forestière und lauschten den Grillen, dem starken Wind und dem Heulen der Wölfe. Kommandant Comtois, der ältere der beiden, hob seine Lampe an. Schnelle Hufschläge erfüllten die Stille.
“Brrr, da”, sagte Sergeant Sicard, ein rothaariger junger Soldat, während sein Pferd tänzelte und gegen das Zaumzeug biss. Die Hufschläge wurden langsamer und kamen näher, aber der Weg vor ihnen sah immer noch leer aus. Sicard bekreuzigte sich und blickte zu den Sternen.
“Es wird heute Nacht wieder brüllen. Dieses Ding”, sagte Sicard und gestikulierte mit seiner Lampe zum Wald. “Weißt du, was es ist?” Sein Kommandant, ein Mann mit einem Gesicht wie Granit, antwortete nicht. Die Hufschläge waren jetzt langsam, bedächtig und nah; ein Pferd mit grauem Maul war um eine Ecke des Weges gebogen und kam in der Dunkelheit auf sie zu. Der Reiter des Pferdes trug einen Kapuzenmantel, der für einen doppelt so großen Körper gemacht war. Falten des Stoffes verdeckten sein Gesicht und seine Hände.
Sicard richtete seine Laterne neu aus und warf Schatten durch die Bäume.

Was denken Sie, Leserfreunden? How accurate or fluid is this?


En la noche del equinoccio de otoño, el bosque no estaba en silencio. Dos soldados a caballo bloqueaban la Route Forestière, escuchando los grillos, los fuertes vientos y los aullidos de los lobos. El comandante Comtois, el mayor de los dos, levantó su lámpara. Unos rápidos cascos llenaron el silencio.

“Alto, ahí”, dijo el sargento Sicard, un joven soldado pelirrojo, mientras su caballo bailaba y mordía contra la brida. Los cascos se ralentizaban y se acercaban, pero el camino que había delante seguía pareciendo vacío. Sicard se persignó y miró a las estrellas.

“Volverá a rugir esta noche. Esa cosa”, dijo Sicard, señalando con su lámpara el bosque. “¿Sabes lo que es?” Su comandante, un hombre con cara de granito, no respondió. El ruido de los cascos era ahora lento, deliberado y cercano; un caballo de hocico gris había doblado una esquina del camino y se acercaba a ellos en la oscuridad. El jinete del caballo llevaba una capa con capucha hecha para un cuerpo del doble de su tamaño. Los pliegues de la tela le ocultaban la cara y las manos.

Sicard reajustó su linterna, proyectando sombras a través de los árboles.

Here it is in a language with very different grammar, Japanese:



“今夜もまた唸るだろうな。あれだよ」 シカードはランプで森を示すジェスチャーをしながら言った。”あれが何かわかるか?” 花崗岩のような顔をした司令官は何も答えなかった。蹄鉄の音がゆっくりと、慎重に、そして近づいてきた。灰色の口輪をした馬が道を曲がって、暗闇の中で彼らに近づいてきたのだ。馬の乗り手は、自分の2倍の大きさの体に合わせて作られたフード付きのマントを着ていた。顔や手は布の襞で隠れている。


It originally didn't translate “Sicard,” so I changed it to シカード (Shikaado). This is where it helps to have another pair of eyes, ideally one in the head of someone who grew up speaking the language. Should it be シカード or シカルド (Shikarudo)? Which one sounds better to a Japanese-language reader?

Sadly there's no Korean-language translation on DeepL. Yet. 죄송합니다, my (probably huge and passionate) Korean-speaking fanbase. We'll see what we can do!

What do you think? Good job, or a jumped-up Google Translate? Let me know in the comments, or the replies.

Six glass jars of red confiton a table in front of a wooden wall.

It’s a big deal because it’s not a big deal

“I can’t believe you left the lid off the jar. It takes two seconds to screw it on. Why can’t you just do it?”

“I can’t believe you’re making a big production about one #@$ jar lid. It takes two seconds to screw it on. If it's so important to you, why can’t you just do it?”

This is a common dynamic with both fictional characters and real-life people. One person does something minor that upsets the other. Maybe they leave the lid off a jar, forget a birthday, forget their manners, fail to take a hint, or don’t do something minor that they said they’d do. The offender’s defense is, basically, that it’s not a big deal. It’s a minor thing. It’s not like they were maliciously trying to ruin the other person’s day. Why can’t the offended party just let it go?

It’s a good question, so let’s try to answer it.

It’s part of a pattern.

Two men in business suits staring at each other in a dark parking lot. One has his arms crossed and looks angry.
Photo by Roland Samuel on Unsplash.

When your characters share history, a “minor thing” tells a major story.

Let’s say two of your characters represent rival kingdoms on the brink of war. They’re meeting to discuss some tricky diplomatic issue. There’s centuries of history between their kingdoms: border skirmishes, trade disputes, cultural clashes, and religious issues. In this context, forgetting some courtly convention—shaking hands, or bowing a certain way—really isn’t a minor thing at all.

Neglecting these niceties sends the message that “I think so little of you, that I would rather risk a long, drawn-out, expensive war than take two seconds to shake your hand/bow correctly/toast glasses with you.”

Or “I don’t think you’re a threat. What are you really gonna do if I don’t follow the rules? Nothing. Because you’re nothing.

Remember, these two characters are undergoing intense negotiations with deep historical roots. Tempers are running high. These “little things” are there to make an actual negotiation possible. Neglecting them is a big deal because it’s not a big deal. It takes a few seconds to bow, shake hands, clink glasses, or follow whatever the custom is. Even if it takes two hours, two days, or even two weeks, it almost certainly saves time, expense, and lives that could be lost in a war. These “little things” are there for a reason.

If neglecting these “little things” are part of a pattern, it's going to sting even more.

The act means different things to different people.

A photo of salmon and salad on a white plate; a lemon slice sits on a dish nearby. There's also a fork. Table beneath is vivid orange.
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash.

A young man eats everything on his plate. When he’s finished, there’s nothing left but a little sauce. In some households, that’s as it should be. In others, it’s unspeakably rude. Same act, different context.

In some cultures, it’s rude to leave food on your plate. You might as well insult the host’s cooking right to her face—and all the starving children of the world, while you’re at it. “I’m not hungry” wasn’t an excuse when you were a kid, and it’s not an excuse now.

In other cultures, it’s rude to eat everything on your plate. Are you saying that the host didn’t give you enough food? You must still be hungry if there’s not even a leaf left.

This occasionally results in funny situations, like an exchange student who keeps eating and eating and eating, while their host mother worriedly keeps offering them second, third, and fourth helpings. They’re both trying not to be rude, but they're running different scripts.

Sometimes it’s not really that funny. Maybe the exchange student compliments an ancient family heirloom, and the host family gives the heirloom to the student. In the host family’s culture, that’s what you do when someone compliments your belongings. The student wasn’t asking for the heirloom, he just comes from a culture where it’s polite to compliment your host’s house. The family may be royally upset about giving away something priceless, but they feel honor-bound to do it.

How does the student treat the heirloom? Does he take it into his room, but leave it alone? Does he give it back to them at the end of the stay, along with something of his own? Does he break the heirloom while drunk, releasing a terrible curse on the household? I don’t know, it’s your story. But that one act—complimenting an heirloom in somebody’s house—has wildly different meanings depending on the context.

In a like manner, something innocuous in one culture could be terribly rude in another. A “little thing” that’s “not a big deal” can be a very big deal in another culture.

Don’t believe me? Look at this.

A picture of a white bowl with water and Cheerios cereal.
Cereal with water? What's the big deal?

Responsibility without authority.

Ensign Marsh is the only person onboard who can repair the teleporter unit. He’s the only guy responsible for it on the entire spaceship; he’s the only guy who truly understands how it works. If something goes wrong—if someone comes back from their adventure with their arm sticking out of their stomach—you can bet he will hear about it, loudly and at length.

That’s why it’s so frustrating when Marsh gets blown off by people who really should know better. He tells the astronauts to put their belongings in a protective pouch every time they go through the teleporter. He tells them to upload their minds onto the cloud before every mission, in case something goes wrong. They say they forgot this time, but they’ll totally do it next time. And then they don’t.

A photo of the earth from space, featuring a small part of a spaceship in the foreground.
Photo by NASA on Unsplash.

These dismissals show Ensign Marsh that he has all the responsibility and none of the authority. He cannot even convey mission-critical information, because no one listens to him. He’s treated more like an appliance than a person, except people sometimes notice warning lights on an appliance.

The inevitable happens. Sergeant Harris comes back from the planet Tlequ’on with his “lucky keychain” lodged halfway in his brain. He didn’t upload his mind beforehand, so they can’t access the important information conveyed to him by the captain, who’s now held captive by the Tlequ’ons. Now Ensign Marsh is getting it in the ear, and he blows up right back.

Wouldn’t you?

For Ensign Marsh, these “little things” aren’t little at all. They have predictable, potentially devastating consequences that he’s trying to prevent. Every time someone blows off mind-linking to the cloud, or putting their lucky keychain in the pouch, they’re reinforcing how powerless he is to do his job, which is keeping the teleporter, and its users, safe. And when something goes wrong, he shoulders the blame even though he lacks the authority to do what needs to be done.

It's not actually a little thing.

“Why didn't you call Toby yesterday? I ran into him at the store, he's been waiting for you to call. He said he could set up an interview for you tomorrow.”

“Sorry, I forgot.”

“Well, you could call him now.”

“Nah, it's late. I don't want to bother him.”

“It's not going to bother him. You've wanted this job forever.”

“I don't feel like it. I'll call him later. He might not pick up.”

“So? Leave a message, send him a text…he told me, all you have to do is call him and he'll set it up.”

“Will you let it go?! I'll call him when I'm ready! Good grief. It's just a phone call.”

…It's not just a phone call.

It's a job, a lead, a chance to change your life and make it better.

It's a way to connect with your friend and have him do you a favor. Which is a really easy way to get someone to like you.

It's a chance to prove that you're taking your job search seriously, and your life seriously. And it's a big deal because it's not a big deal. If you could make more money and get a better job after one two-minute phone call, why wouldn't you make that phone call?

Maybe the person asking you to call really stuck their neck out to get you this connection. When you blow it off, you're blowing off Toby and your friend as well.

It's not just a phone call.

[X] is important to you, not me. Therefore, it's not really important.

This is why “I just forgot! Jeez!” is a weak defense. “I forgot” is just reaffirming the underlying message of disrespect or disdain.

This is why “I didn’t mean to” is a weak defense. At best, it sounds like you weren’t prepared. At its worst, it sounds like your mind was elsewhere when it really should have been on what’s right in front of you. Either way, it just reinforces the original message.

Action, Reaction.

The offended character doesn’t have to fly off the handle or draw a blade on the spot. Maybe he observes the slight and whispers something to his second in command. Maybe she calls attention to her rival’s lapse with some cutting remark. Maybe negotiations start off on the wrong foot and never get right. Maybe we’ll see a “red wedding” scene twelve chapters later. Remember, the Red Wedding happened because Robb Stark didn’t do something he promised to do.

And the offending party, the one who forgot to bow (or whatever it is), doesn’t necessarily have to have malicious intentions. It’s juicier if they don’t. Maybe she was up all night trying to heal someone, and she’s off her game. Maybe she’s a lookalike sent in after the real negotiator ran away. Maybe he has ADHD (or whatever the fantasy-world equivalent is). Maybe there’s a very good reason he can’t bow this way/shake hands/clink glasses. Maybe he has to hide that reason to protect someone, even if it means war.

This doesn’t mean that the offended party is wrong for getting offended. Keep in mind that the offended party is never going to know everything that you and the readers know about the world. Even if he did, he’s not coming to the table with the reader’s perspective, he’s coming with his perspective. Why did the enemy send someone to negotiate who isn’t ready to be serious? Why are they trifling before we even start? What is their word worth? Why should we trust them?

It’s not just in stories

If you want to see an example of this dynamic in day-to-day life, read “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes in the Sink.” This dynamic can come up in many heightened and otherworldly scenarios. Even if you have aliens, billionaires, vampires, and time travellers, this dynamic can still pop up in a million ways.

What We Do in the Shadows (if you haven't seen it, watch it tonight) is brilliant, in part, because it combines the gothic, supernatural ambience of a vampire movie with the mundane dramas of daily life (and reality tv).

Connecting your stories to “trivial” or “mundane” everyday reality isn't going to bring your story down; on the contrary, it can make them more universal and relatable. Most people have never been in space, in a vampire's lair, or at the negotiation table between two kingdoms. But they have been slighted by someone who thought their slight was “not a big deal.”