December 31, 2012

Peter's awesome spectacular very cool year (performed in blogs and photos)

If you're sick of everyone else's "here's how my 2012 went" posts, you can just skip this one. But if that's the case, what are you doing reading blogs in the first place?

My 2012 was a pretty awesome year. Come bask in the glow of my self-satisfaction.

The awesomeness began in January when I published Semper all by myself. (With the help of CreateSpace and KDP and Aerin and Phoenix.) I really didn't know what I was doing, but boy was I having fun. I made a little money in 2012 with Semper (enough to pay my Starbucks bill while I wrote the sequel), and including freebies the book was downloaded over 10,000 times in 2012.

February got even better despite car trouble. I volunteered for the fifth year in a row at the San Francisco Writers Conference and met some great people and reconnected with fabulous publishing industry folks and writers I'd met before. But the most awesome part of February was a weekend retreat at the Sanctuary spa in the Phoenix area Maria and I attended for work. My work is all about corporate philanthropy, and I represented my company at this event called Escape For Good because my boss was busy and couldn't go. Got to hang with celebrity athletes (all of whom are very community minded) for the weekend and talk philanthropy and community involvement with Athletes for Hope and U Give. Among the highlights: Dinner with Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, Muhammed Ali's 70th birthday party emceed by Johnny Bench, hearing about Andre Agassi's work with underprivileged youth in Las Vegas, an awesome wine tasting, a swell mixology class, getting called an "old guy" by Lance Armstrong, chatting with Tom Jackson, a fun "Iron Chef" competition where Maria cooked with Annika Sorenstam and chef Julian Serrano, and meeting new friends and business contacts. Memories:
Lunch on the patio.
"The Cowboy" from 2012 American Idol. Better than I expected.
Me & Tony watching the chefs at work.
Lance, Maria, and some old guy.
Me and my new BFF.
I know, right? I actually made some business contacts and had a few followup meetings from the event (not with any athletes, sadly). Still working on some ideas with some of those folks.

March came in not so much like a lion but more like a deep breath between hurricanes of awesomeness. It saw my cousin Cassie's wedding, a skiing day with the boy scout troop, and a good corporate citizenship conference in Phoenix. I started in earnest writing Forsada, the sequel to Semper, and I watched actual sales of Sember grow slowly but steadily. (Think frozen molasses flowing uphill.)

April, though... wow, April. I started with a trip to New York for the Charities @Work conference (I'm on the advisory council), followed immediately by a flight to Kathmandu, Nepal. When we got back, Maria had a girls weekend in Denver, then I went on business trips to Las Vegas and Charlotte. All in April. A brief recap of the Nepal trip (the actual blog posts have all the photos):

  • Day one: 32 hours to Kathmandu, some shopping and a fantastic dinner, plus a neat hotel
  • Day two: Kathmandu historical tour, rough roads, and cows sleeping in the streets
  • Day three: A jungle, rhinos, WE RODE AN ELEPHANT, and a twin otter
  • Day four: Bathing the elephants, rowboating for crocodiles, and spiders
  • Day five: Nepal countryside, insane bus drivers, a near-death experience
  • Day six: The most stunning view in the world (perhaps)
  • Day seven: Day hike through rural Nepal

Some of my favorite pictures from the trip:
Flying flags at the Monkey Temple

The patio where we took tea and ate breakfast
Crazy bus drivers, crazy bus passengers
Believe it or not, Rhino, we do see you.
In May I had some big work wins. Specifically, my volunteer program won a Summit Award from United Way Worldwide (a big honor), and my workplace giving campaign was named #1 in the country for the third year in a row. Pretty big honors for me and my team at work, who are the most awesome and fabulous crew ever. We get some pretty big results. In May I also was sworn in to the Workforce Investment San Francisco board. And I also did my first ever author reading from Semper.

June smacked me in the head with my 45th birthday, which I spent at boy scout camp. Bigger news was Beth and Chris' wedding on a day that climbed well past 107 degrees.

In July, Ethan turned 16 while we were on family vacation in Washington, DC. Our whole trip the temperature never fell below 143 degrees, or so it seemed. Still, we had fun visiting all kinds of museums and hanging out with bro Mark and sis-in-law Maria. My favorites: July 4th fireworks on the Mall, Newseum, the Supreme Court, Mark's lab at NIH, and the Library of Congress.

At the time, this house was still up for grabs.
Ash and paper fell on us. It was awesome.
LOC. One of the coolest places on Earth.
Brother Mark in his natural habitat. Cures cancer, he does.
Supreme Court.
Still in July, I did business trips to Phoenix (yes, again!), Portland, and Seattle. And in the middle of all that we drove to Mammoth Lakes to meet my mom for a long weekend. We took the tram to the top of Mammoth Mountain but only hiked around a few minutes because it was dog-cold and wicked windy, and the staff said that lightning was seen within ten miles, so we had to get down the hill quick.

Ruler of all I survey. Take THAT, Yertle.
August was a month for staying home. First, my dad and stepmom visited for a week from the east coast, and we did a whole bunch of fun things. Then, I gave up our four nights at a Tahoe timeshare because (a) someone bailed on the plans we'd made earlier in the year, and (b) I had to coach a soccer tournament. But that doesn't mean I'm not bitter about (a).

In September, Ethan got his driver's license, and I went on business trips to Minneapolis and St. Louis. Ethan started 10th grade and Sam moved up into 7th. We ran our employee giving campaign as we do every year at work, this time kicking butt once more and pretty much locking up a fourth #1 year in a row. Plus, I helped judge the Lascaux Flash contest.

October took me to Denver and Colorado Springs for work, and I finished Forsada and sent the manuscript out to beta readers for the first time. I also injured my knee playing soccer. It's not too bad, but I really shouldn't play on it for a few more months. We saw some America's Cup racing and the Blue Angels, and the F-22 was an incredible sight.

I did, in fact, take this picture.
In November I won NaNoWriMo for the fifth time, with a new story that I may finish in 2014 after I write the third book of the New Eden series. I collected feedback on Forsada and completed my first revisions. Over Thanksgiving the family visited my nephew in Portland, shortly after he moved there. We had Voodoo doughnuts and visited the Japanese and Chinese gardens as well as the Mercy Corps headquarters and the Saturday Market. I am getting to like Portland a lot. Wendy Russ produced covers for me for Semper and Forsada, and I relaunched Semper with the new cover.

December was another stay-at-home month, after one business trip to Los Angeles. I got the proof copies of Forsada and had some revisions, so I'm waiting for the final copy to arrive. It will be published January 13, so be sure to go get it then and then review it on Amazon or Goodreads. My mom came to visit over Christmas, then the boys drove back to Las Vegas with her. They came back last night as unaccompanied minors on Southwest, their first time flying alone.

Tonight we're having a New Year's Eve party. I can't imagine 2013 being nearly as good a year as 2012 was, but I seem to remember saying something similar at this time a year ago.

May your 2013 be the best year ever for you.

December 30, 2012

handy head massager, and WTF is that German?

Free cookies and cider!
On Christmas Eve, we took the day and wandered San Francisco. Many of the hotels sported awesome gingerbread houses. The Fairmont built an enormous gingerbread entry foyer for their tea room. The St. Francis had a twelve foot tall castle made of sugar that was glorious. The Mark Hopkins had a modest but lovely gingerbread house along with free cider and cookies.

We also got to see fifteen minutes of the Grace Cathedral Christmas pageant with tons of little kids in costume and some fine singing. And we walked the Grace outdoor labyrinth. Very serene, except for the toddlers throwing tantrums and the parents ardently trying to shush them.

After lunch at the San Francisco Center (too crowded, and the Thai place had a curry that smelled like burning latex), we strolled Chinatown because the boys wanted to get some fireworks for New Year's. It's impossible to stroll Chinatown without browsing the junk stores. My mom bought a tiny lucky cat statue (half inch tall, about fifty cents). But we all got terribly excited when we discovered...

the Handy Head Massager.

Made in China. What a surprise!
We actually got to try this thing out in the store before buying. And at 99 cents, it's almost worth the price. Here's the actual device:

So easy it doesn't need instructions!
All you do is rub it down your head. It sort of scratches but mostly tickles. I haven't tried it on the cat yet, but I'm betting that will be fun. Let me get out my first aid kit, though.

Even better is the box it came in. Turn it over, and it has this picture and caption on the side:

"The smooth tips glid across the surface of your scalp,sending sparkling sensarions thru your entire body."
Doesn't she look gleeful and unstressed? Yes, if you purchase this device, you too can share it with your bathing beauty bombshell. She will deeply appreciate the ability to scratch her head with thin, flimsy wires. So much better than other "smooth tips" for sending sensarions thru her entire body.

But wait... WTF. Is that German? Let's see...


Well, Google Translate thinks it might be German. Or Romanian. But it basically translates into English as


Ah, that was helpful.

Oh, but next to this is the German instruction, which begins "Hier verbindet sich jahrtausend alte Tradition der Aborigines mit moderner Technik des ausgehended zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts!" (According to Google Translate, this means "Here, ancient tradition of Aboriginal combines with modern technology of the late twentieth century ended!") So I suppose it is German. Sort of.

This thing only cost 99 cents, and the amusement it's brought us is worth almost twice that.

December 29, 2012

Whole bunch of #free #books this weekend!

Semper is one of the sixteen great ebooks you can get for free this weekend through this special holiday promotion. Check it out. There's really no reason NOT to download the books, even if you've already got a billion books on your to-read list.

Here's the link:

If you do read any of them, the authors would appreciate an honest review at Amazon or Goodreads. I know I would. (I would of course appreciate a glowing review more, but I relish every comment I get because it means someone took the time to read what I wrote and then took extra time to let me know what they thought. What greater honor is there to an artist than that?)

The Extinct anthology is also free in this promotion. (It contains my short story, Distractions).

Time is the one thing that every human will never have enough of, so I thank you for yours.

December 21, 2012

#origami #christmas tree... we haz one!

A couple of years ago we spent a chilly but gorgeous day in New York. We stopped by the Natural History Museum and fell in love with the origami Christmas tree they had. So it was no surprise when my wife, at Thanksgiving, said, "I want an origami Christmas tree."

So now we have one.

Yes, it took about 73 hours of work.

I only made about a dozen of the ornaments. Maria did the majority of the work, and Sam helped a lot. Ethan did some minimal amount of work but was generally supportive, offering helpful comments like, "Really, Mom? Seriously? Not like that. You fold it like this."

Some of the ornaments came from kits.


Guess what animal this is!

Some did not. I think this is a turtle. Or a tortoise. Or a frog. Or perhaps a moose or a grasshopper. I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be a snake.

See how the fish is mocking the green blobby thing?

One of the themes of the tree is animals, and we have lots of animals. My first attempt at a "zebra" with brown paper (which I preferred to call a "horse") looked more like a "llama," so that's what it is.

Sing along with this!

I am not sure what this is, but I think it's a mouse. It could be a bunny. We do have some origami bunnies that are very cute. Near the bunnymouse on the tree is a blue whale. Or a blue gray whale. Or a blue humpback whale.

I wish I could speak whale!

Isn't it cute? I think it's a capybara.

Best of all, though, is the irony of having a tree adorned with paper dinosaurs. Creatures that roamed the Earth, if you believe in that whole evolution thing, quite a while before any wise men roamed the Earth. The fact that we've gussied up our Christmas tree (which in itself is a good pagan symbol of the solstice) with dinosaurs really tickles me.

Less ticklish but equally ironic is this mini tank. My son insists it's not an M1-A1 Abrams, but I think it pretty much is. Peace on Earth, y'all.

And no Christmas tree would be complete without a star on top. Sam gets the glory for creating this masterpiece from like six sheets of origami paper.

Happy solstice, happy Mayan end of the world, Merry Christmas, and everything that goes along with it. If you've got a special decoration you're proud of, let us know in the comments.

December 17, 2012

Proofreading: The necessary evil

Before you read this, go enter my drawing for a free ARC of Forsada!

Proofreading is on my mind. I received my print proof of FORSADA last week. My good friend Impatience immediately whispered in my ear, "You've revised it a billion times on your computer. It's solid. Approve it. You don't have to read it again."

But I sat down Saturday morning with my red pen and what I thought were enough sticky note flags, and I started in. I got as far as the Acknowledgments page before I found my first error.

As I stared at that one correction and the 226 pages that awaited my red pen, I thought about this Insatiable Booksluts post I'd just read, ranting about poorly edited self-published books. Consensus seems to be that even professionally edited books from major publishers end up with typos. Readers can forgive one here or there, as long as the book isn't a total mess.

My book, I knew, was not a total mess. If I didn't have such a fun and lucrative day job, I could totally be a professional editor. I once had a first draft edited by a pro, and when she was done she told me she'd love to edit all my work--easiest money she'd ever made.

So I sat there and looked at those two transposed words daring me to take the easy way out and trust that I'd done enough. "Go on," they said. "Just publish the book and be dome with it."

"Be done with it," I mused. "Sounds nice." My eagerness to be done tempted me to declare victory. Instead, I turned the page. And like a cartoon boxing glove on a cartoon extendo-arm, Times New Roman jumped out of the third line where Garamond italic should have been, and it smacked me in the eye and gave me a big shiner.

What the hell?

Somehow, in formatting or upload or printing, all my italics had magically turned into Times New Roman.

The temptation of the easy way out had completely disappeared. If I had to upload a new document and go through the proof process again, it was going to be right. Which is why, this morning about 40% of the way through the book, I ran out of my little sticky note flags. Nothing really big. A double space here, a miscapitalized word there, a "the" instead of "they." Some opportunistic word choice changes.

I'm pretty well known at work for my attention to detail where grammar, usage, and clean text are concerned. It's a rare day when I send an email with a typo in it, and I send hundreds of emails a day. So it's shocking how many simple, tiny errors can slip into a 90,000 word manuscript even after you've read it a half dozen times. Even after ten beta readers have read it. And probably even after one final pass over the printed book.

December 14, 2012

ARC giveaway and cover reveal #YA #book #indielit #selfpub

All my friends who have books about to be published through traditional channels have "cover reveal day" on their blogs. This is when they get to show the world the cover of their upcoming book. I've always thought this was a vain, self-glorifying, egotistical thing to do. So of course I've been dying to have a cover reveal day of my own.

Forsada, the sequel to Semper, will be available in print and on Kindle on January 13, 2013.

If you haven't read Semper yet, you can get it at Amazon or wait until December 26th when it will be available as a free download for Kindle.

Want a free eARC of Forsada? Tweet or facebook or blog the permalink to this post, and leave a comment here pointing to your post. Couldn't be easier. I'll pull up to five names out of a hat* on December 26 from everyone who enters (one entry per tweet/post).

I'll also send a signed ARC of the printed book to two lucky winners.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot the cover.

Cover design: Wendy Russ

* Or could be a shoe. Or I might make a big Bingo board of all the names, then let my cat eat grass and see which names she barfs on. Not sure yet how it'll work.

December 7, 2012

why I think my brother is a genius

You may think that my brother is a genius because he cures cancer. But it took a nine year old with a Polaroid camera to illustrate his true genius.

Way back when, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and Santa was still clinging to reality, my nine year old nephew, Max, armed with a Polaroid instant camera, approached his father on Christmas Eve. Young enough to still be skeptical of skepticism, he said to his father, "My friends say Santa isn't real. So I'm going to leave this camera here next to the Christmas tree, with a note for Santa. So he can prove he's real."

The note said, "Dear Santa, please take a picture of yourself in front of our tree. Thank you, Max."

My brother put his son to bed and set out the Christmas presents. He ate the cookies and drank the milk. And he worried and worried what he would say to his son in the morning when there was no photo of Santa in front of the tree.

In the morning, my nephew ran to the living room and, ignoring the presents, went straight to the camera.

The camera was still there. The cookies and milk were gone. Max's note was still there. But scribbled at the bottom of the note was this answer: "Max, thank you for the milk and cookies. Mrs. Claus will love the photo. Sincerely, Santa."

Max looked heartbroken as he wailed, "I should have told him to leave the picture!"

That is why I think my brother is a genius.