2012: Looking Back, Looking Forward

2012. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. I guess a lot of us say that every year, but this year held so many changes for our lives that it really IS hard to believe! But as one year ends, another is about to begin, and I wanted to take a minute or two to reflect on where live’s taken us, and where I hope to be next year.

2012 was a milestone year for several reasons. The first is that it was the first full year that I’ve spent as a self-employed author. As you may recall, I left my rather high-paying “executive” job at the National Security Agency (NSA) in mid-2011 to write full-time. Despite the meteoric start, the rest of the year turned out to be a lesson in hard knocks. In 2012, while I certainly didn’t get everything done that I had planned, I certainly can’t complain from the business perspective: while the final count’s not in yet, I figure that for the year I’ll have sold over 80,000 copies of my books and given away over a quarter million. For a first year in business, I’ll count that as not too darn bad, and I owe it all to you, dear reader.

The second reason is that my wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Every anniversary in a marriage should be an important milestone, one where you should mentally refresh your vows and double-check that you’re cherishing each other. It’s very easy to lose sight of that in this day of hustle and bustle, so take some time with your spouse and make sure they know through your words and deeds that you love them.

Now, our anniversary was a key element in the third major milestone for us in 2012: moving from Maryland to Florida. My wife and I have lived in Maryland since the mid/late 1980s, working at NSA. While Maryland certainly isn’t a bad place, it never felt like home to an Arizona boy like me. And my wife, while she was from Pittsburgh, has always loved warmer climates.

And so, for our tenth anniversary, we decided to take a car trip to Sarasota, Florida in April and relax for a week in a timeshare condo on the beach. We originally hadn’t even intended to go to Sarasota, but it turned out through an odd series of events that we wound up going to that particular condo (the Calini Beach Club, if you must know). We immediately fell in love with the area, and said to ourselves, “You know, we could live here.”

You know, my wife and I may be many things, but one thing we are not is indecisive. We spent the rest of our trip scouting out neighborhoods in the area, and as soon as we got home to Maryland we started getting the house there ready to sell. By August we had a contract on the house, then we packed up the RV and headed south (think of Robin Williams in the movie “RV” – that’s us!.

When we got down to Sarasota, in just a few days put in a contract on a house that was an estate sale. In the meantime we got the boys enrolled in school and hunkered down to wait for the sale of the Maryland house to go through so we could buy our home in Sarasota. We spent five weeks living in the RV, and while it was a pain in some ways, I think it was among the best times we’ve spent together as a family.

We closed on the house in September, and have spent a lot of time and money making it ours (in fact, the kitchen remodeling project is still only half-finished).

If anyone had told me even a couple years ago that I would be making such huge changes in life, I would have called for the men in the white coats! But here we are. Are things perfect? Heck, no! Living a dream is a process, not an end state. Sometimes you’re going to come up short, sometimes you’re going to fail or make mistakes. Just never stop reaching, never stop climbing, never give up.

And that brings us to 2013. I’m not going to say I have any “resolutions,” because I don’t live by those. I live by goals. Granted, I don’t always achieve the goals I set, but I set them and do my best to shoot for them. Here are my big ones for the coming year:

  • Get my Gumby-like rubbery body back in shape! A friend of mine once told me that you’re body is your temple, and it really is true. It sucks that it’s so easy to fall out of shape, but takes so much work to get there, but that’s the way it is. Starting tomorrow (26 December), I’m working out at the local YMCA a minimum of four times a week and shifting to a much healthier eating lifestyle. Buff bod, here I come!
  • Start growing spiritually. I’m not here to push my beliefs at you; I happen to be a Christian, and if you believe differently, power to you. But whatever your beliefs are, you shouldn’t let your spirituality stagnate. I’ve done pretty darn near absolutely nothing in the last twenty five years to question, learn about, and expand my spiritual horizons. This year that’s going to change. My goal is to read the entire Holy Bible over the course of the coming year.
  • Live more. It’s so easy to let your work or other things consume you while the simple pleasures of life pass you by. This has been a very chaotic year for us, and we haven’t gone out and done many of the things that we planned when we decided to move here. It’s six minutes from our front door to the nearest beach, yet we’ve only gone a few times in the last couple months. There are tons of cultural and social events here. There are lots of water-related sports and activities. Yet, we have yet to take advantage of them. That’s going to change. My goal is to go to at least one cultural event (a show, musical, whatever) once a month; attend one of the local meetup groups at least twice a month; and get to the beach every day, weather permitting!

On the work side, I have some new goals, too:

  • As far as my writing goes, I’m changing things a bit from what I had this last year. I had set myself a goal of 3,000 words a day, but only rarely achieved it. This year, I’m going to stick a sign on the wall of our office that says, “You have to write 2,000 words before you can go to bed.” I think I can achieve that consistently without over-stressing my right wrist (it got banged up in a car wreck a couple years ago), and if I plaster that sign up where I’ll be looking at it all day, it should help keep the goal in my pea brain. Rain or shine, at least 2,000 words a day before I go to sleep. No excuses.
  • Get all the books into audiobook format. I’m already working on this one, trying to find a narrator, but I want to get this nailed down and get the books out there in audio to develop that segment of my fan base and bring in a new stream of income.
  • Focus more on the emerging markets beyond Amazon-US. There’s no question that Amazon-US is buttering my bread. But it’s also clear that Amazon-UK is a vital player, accounting for a full third of my royalties from Kindle book sales, and I want to focus more effort on developing the other retail outlets and national markets. I don’t have a full strategy put together on how I plan to do that, but my goal for January is sorting that out and then setting it into motion.

So, those are the highlights of where I’m heading going into 2013. I hope you take some time to lay out your goals for the year, the things you need to do to move you closer to your dreams and aspirations!

Posted in Blog
13 comments on “2012: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  1. Jennings says:

    Great post – and we’re on amazingly similar journeys! Good luck with your goals – I look forward to seeing how we both do compared to our lists at the end of 2013. Happy New Year!

  2. Harriet Garner says:

    Thank you for sharing your 2012 journey and your aspirations for 2013. I find this and other writings inspirational. Best to you and your family as you continue to grow in life and love.

    I have several interests including beekeeping, volunteering with the California, Academic Decathlon and improving my competent communicator skills with Toastmasters International. It is difficult to decide whether to blog our continue to support writers I admire. My husband of 34 years and i plan to travel more, practice yoga, continue to meditate and be more compassionate during 2013.

  3. Pat Long says:

    good luck in 2013!

  4. Jon Frater says:

    Sounds like an excellent plan to move forward and improve on your already remarkable success. Good Luck!

  5. Kay timbreza says:

    Enjoyed your post. Love your books. Even gave them as gifts.thank you. Hard lately to find books I love and Reading is a passion. Enjoy your journey!

  6. Virginia Baeyens says:

    Lots of literary references in the world of warcraft game, also movies and tv nods. Might you find it fun (I know I would) to have your blue folks doing the random surprise attack? Or at least have a npc name reference?

  7. Lisa Andrews says:

    Thank you for a glimpse of your 2012 gone and 2013 to come. It is inspiring to read your words and know that we are all capable of making our dreams come true if we make plans and have a direction, by having a direction we have a destination to head towards. Good luck and God Bless you with your plans and goals for 2013 from…..New Zealand. : ) keep writing you have great talent, you are a story teller. Lisa A

  8. Lovely to include your wife in your post.
    Writing goals. They are in place. So close yet so far has been my scenario of late. Looking forward to 2013 and reaching one more or perhaps two of my goals. :)

  9. It’s been cool to watch your writing career really take off over the past year and a half. This post got me thinking about my own goals for 2013. I wish you the best in marking off every item on your list this year, my friend.

  10. leejordan says:

    Hello Michael. I loved reading what you have been doing this past year and I know you will meet all your goals in 2013. Happy New Year. Lee Jordan as author PHOENIX.

  11. John C. Gray says:

    Michael, as someone aspiring to have my income come from my writings, this is probably some of the best advice I have read in making the transition. This info makes for a good “self-help” book for self publishers considering such a move whether in part or in full. Thanks…

  12. Rina says:

    Hi! Thanks for sharing this.

    BTW, who won the giveaway in December 2012?

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