Saying goodbye to a decade…
Each year since I first started writing in 2016, I’ve reviewed my accomplishments for the past year and set new goals for the year (and maybe this time if I’m feeling really spunky, for a whole decade? Nah…). I’ve often heard it said that we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a year, but underestimate what we can achieve in ten years. I can’t wait to see what i’ve done when I reach my ten year writing anniversary in 2026.
Whereas I’ve only recently started writing fiction, I’ve accomplished plenty over the past decade, starting on January 1, 2010. Here are a few highlights. I defended my Ph.D. dissertation. I moved six times (including one cross-country move this summer). I bought and sold a house. I raised two puppies. I did a three-year stint at the Pentagon and traveled to so many countries I can’t count them all. I’ve written more than ten professional papers. I’ve spent many hours in the classroom teaching senior military officers about WMD. I spent four weeks in the South African bush, checking off a bucket list item by participating in an Earthwatch expedition. Among other awesome adventures, I got the opportunity to walk with three lions and pet a cheetah. I’ve written almost four novels and two novellas. I’ve produced two podcasts. I quit my job, started my own company, and set off on my own. After dreaming of living on the ocean again since 2002, I can now see the Gulf of Mexico from my home office window. Wow!
It’s amazing what we can achieve in ten years. In the following, I’ll take stock of my accomplishments for 2019 and plan a few for 2020. This is going to be a long post, so let’s get to it.
My 2019 Accomplishments and Goals for 2020
Rather than separate my 2019 and 2020 goals into two long lists, I’ve decided to divide them up by category: podcasts, fiction, nonfiction, and marketing. Also, if you wish, you can review my reflections from early 2019 and the list of things I set out to accomplish in last year’s post.
Spoiler Alert: I achieved most of my goals, failed at two, and surprised myself with a brand new project.
- Bionic Bug Podcast: I released the final episode of the Bionic Bug Podcast on January 26, 2019. The podcast was an experiment in content marketing, spurred by an intense desire to get into the growing audio market. Each episode began with analysis of a few tech news headlines, which was followed by me reading a chapter from Bionic Bug. The episodes are still available on my website and on Patreon.
2019 Outcome: Success
- Authors of Mass Destruction Podcast: I launched the AOMD podcast on March 3, 2019, which focuses on helping authors write great stories while getting the details right. Tune in for interviews with leading experts on weapons of mass destruction and emerging technologies, author interviews, technical modules, and reviews of what TV shows and movies get right and wrong. In only nine months, I managed to release a total of 30 episodes on topics such as nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, intelligence, chemical weapons, genomic data, missile technology, and robotics (available on the AOMD podcast website, on Soundcloud, or iTunes).
2019 Outcome: Success
- In 2020, I will continue producing the AOMD podcast with a new episode releasing every other week, taking a few pauses in the year. I’m planning to shift the focus away from nuclear weapons to other topics such as bioweapons, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. I also plan to explore ways to monetize the podcast, enhance the content, and integrate the podcast into my fiction website to increase traffic.
- Project Gecko Podcast: I’m planning to launch a new podcast, continuing what I did with the Bionic Bug podcast. I’ll be reading from Project Gecko, Book Two in the Lara Kingsley Series, and will make the episodes available to a select group of patrons on Patreon. If you’re interested in listening, please sign up for the right tier. I’m planning to get started in late January.
- Genomic Data: I finished Genomic Data, Book Three in the Lara Kingsley Series in May, but waited to publish it until November 2019 to maximize results of my series launch. It’s now available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover on Amazon. I’m really proud of this book and where it’s taking the series, and I can’t wait to write the next one. Outcome: Success
- The Kingsley Files: I finished two novellas for the Kingsley Series to allow VIP readers to get behind the scenes clues to larger story arc and hear from other characters besides Lara. Volume One is told from John Fiddler’s perspective while he’s serving a jail term as a result of crimes he committed in Bionic Bug. Volume Two is told from Phil “Sully” Sullivan’s perspective. In this story, we learn what happened to Sully in the final days before his tragic death. If you’ve read both Bionic Bug and Project Gecko (there are spoilers), you can read these for free by signing up to my email newsletter list. I also planned to write Volume Three, but decided to wait until after I write Book Four of the Lara Kingsley Series. Outcome: 2/3 Success
- TV Pilot for the Lara Kingsley Series: I was excited to have my first screenwriting experience this year, but I didn’t have time to attack this monumental project. In some ways, it felt premature to break into a new industry. 2019 Outcome: Never Started
- Rescind Order: From October-December, I surprised myself by writing a new novel in a brand new series: The Morgan Shaw Series. It was partly the fault of my muse and partly the fault of my screenwriter friend (you know who you are). I was writing a professional paper on the impact of artificial intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and created a scenario for the introduction of the paper. It involved the prospect of integrating AI into nuclear weapons systems to gain more decision-making time. I was describing the scenario to my screenwriter friend, and he said that would make a great film. I told him I had to write the novel first. I’m nearly finished with a first draft and expect it will be finished sometime in March 2020. I’m calling the novel a technodrama. It belongs to the technothriller genre, but it involves more suspense than action. Outcome: A Surprise Success Story
- In the Spring of 2020, I’m planning to work with my screenwriter friend to adapt the novel to a screenplay for a heart-pumping thriller.
- American Doomsday: My muse took another interesting turn when I begin considering the novel/film. I wasn’t satisfied in treating the topic of nuclear weapons and AI with a serious tone in a thriller. I wanted to point out some of the absurdities of such a prospect. And for that, I needed to write a comedy. So, I’ve also decided to adapt the novel to a musical stage play in 2020. If you’re interested in learning more, I’m blogging about the experience. Mostly because I’ll be stunned if I can carry something like this off. Join me for the adventure!
- Westphalia: In June of 2020, I’ll begin another passion project of mine. I’m writing a science fiction dystopian series that will take place in 2044. I’ve been dreaming about writing this series for more than a year and finally feel ready to take it on. Stay tuned for a cover reveal and other teasers in coming months.
- Black Box: In the fall of 2020, I’ll be writing Book Four of the Lara Kingsley Series. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to go on the next adventure with Lara and find out what’s going on underneath the surface of these mystery novels. Spoiler: The next few books will delve into the intersection of artificial intelligence and synthetic biology.
I didn’t announce any 2019 goals for non-fiction, but I wrote one down in my notes. Maybe I subconsciously knew it wasn’t realistic and didn’t tell you about it. I did start on a non-fiction project in the spring, but it didn’t get too far. The book is called Nuclear 101: Understanding the Bomb.
- Nuclear 101: Understanding the Bomb: This will be my first non-fiction project, and I look forward to completing it sometime in 2020. The book will be designed to help writers, teachers, and technology nerds understand the basic technical issues for acquiring a nuclear weapon. The book will be published as a hardcover, paperback, and ebook in 2020.
Marketing is a new area of focus for me. Until this year, I only had two books in a single series. It didn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time on marketing beyond some of the well-know basics–a website, social media, and an email list. This past fall, I officially launched the Lara Kingsley Series into the world and attempted to make a big push, which leads me to my first marketing goal for 2019 (and the biggest failure of my Indie career so far).
- Lara Kingsley Series Launch: I invested a great deal into the launch of the Lara Kingsley Series. I delayed the publication of Genomic Data until November 2019 to attempt a rapid release launch of Books One, Two and Three. I produced two novellas to serve as reader magnets and build up a fan base. I even hired a marketing team to help me with the launch. I spent an unmentionable amount of money on the launch (so much it hurts me to think about it). And it totally bombed. Don’t get me wrong. I sold some books, but about as many as I did when I first published Bionic Bug without any promotion at all. I don’t know enough about launches to understand what my marketing team did/didn’t do and to determine the source of the failure. When they couldn’t show me a return for the money begin spent after three months, I had to let them go. It’s possible that wasn’t sufficient time to build up an audience. More likely, a rapid release strategy doesn’t work all that well if the books aren’t made exclusive to Kindle Unlimited. Outcome: Dismal Failure
- Bionic Bug On Location Videos: The Lara Kingsley Series takes place in Washington D.C. For this reason, I thought producing video tours of different scenes would be a fun way to engage readers. Before leaving D.C., I managed to get footage of one more location in Bionic Bug–The National Basilica. As a result, I now have three such videos available for readers. Outcome: Success
- American Doomsday Kickstarter: In 2020, I’m planning to launch another Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for my comedy musical stage play. I’m hoping to raise enough money to produce an audioplay version, perhaps with a few original songs. Kickstarters are not easy; they require a great deal of work and can be tough to pull off without a pre-existing platform. That said, I already have one successful Kickstarter campaign under my belt. At the very least, the Kickstarter will help me create buzz around my efforts to bring a play about nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence to the stage.
- Amazon Advertising: After bombing the launch of my series, my major marketing goal for 2020 is to learn how to do Amazon advertising, increase my sales and exposure and get a return on my marketing dollars spent.
Whew! I’ve got a lot on my plate for 2020. I hope that I’ve set some realistic goals for myself and that I have more successes than failures in the coming year. Thanks for following my journey as an independent author. I wish you much success in the goals you set for yourself in 2020. Let’s get to work to make our lives better. Happy New Year!