2013 Failures and 2014 Goals

I set goals for 2013. And I failed to meet them. I promised three short nonfiction books, Absolute OpenBSD 2nd edition, and a novel. You got AO2e and two short nonfiction books, DNSSEC Mastery and Sudo Mastery.

While setting goals is important, exploring why you fail to meet those goals is just as important. Driving factors behind these goals boil down to three things.

  • These were pretty ambitious goals
  • Traveled to EuroBSDCon in September
  • January’s emergency appendectomy
  • I knew this was ambitious beforehand, but decided to try for it anyway. So, the first I accept as my own inability to realistically predict what I can do.

    I spent two weeks in Europe, both for EuroBSDCon and meeting with other writers and publishers. If I had to fly for eight hours one way (which I detest), and shift my body clock (which I find very difficult), I was going to make the trip worthwhile. But between preparing for teaching at EuroBSDCon, physical preparations for the trip, and recovering from the trip (both physically and real life), that cost me at least a month.

    You cannot predict something like an appendolith. That’s life. I didn’t merely have an appendolith, though. I had fever and infection and all sorts of horrible ghastly things. Proper recovery took months. Plus, general anaesthesia is insidious. Even when you wake up, it muddles your brain for weeks or months afterwards.

    When life derails your goals, you get back up as soon as you can and get back on track. Maybe you can’t complete the entire goal, but you can sure do a whole bunch of it. Or maybe the deadline slips into the next year. Whatever you do, you don’t quit.

    So: I failed.

    With those things in mind, let me set some goals for 2014. I already let part of this out at NYCBSDCon, so the rest of you might as well know.

    1) I will write at least three short nonfiction books. At least one will be on OpenBSD, at least one will be on FreeBSD. At least two will see print by the end of the year.

    2) Last year’s novel will get out of my house. A couple of my author friends are encouraging me to run the novel through a publisher and have offered introductions. Their faith in my work is sincerely touching. I’m inclined to self-publish, but am keeping an open mind. We’ll see what happens. (I waited to publish this list until I finished the first draft, for those who wonder.)

    3) I’ll write at least 120,000 words of fiction. (See FAQ 9.)

    4) I will not change time zones for a conference. EuroBSDCon was great, and I’m sure that the Sofia conference will be just as grand, but that kind of travel messes me up too badly to write. I’ll be at BSDCan, but this year I’m taking the train. Because I really, really abhor flying.

    5) I’m a candidate for my dojo’s red sash test this year. If selected, I will do my best to pass. This means much practice and sweat, as the test lasts several hours. For example, my green sash test included over four hundred falls. The falling isn’t bad, but getting up again gets pretty rough. The red sash test is worse.

    My deadline for these goals in February 2015. Because my birthday is in February. Using my personal year for goals always feels better than using the calendar year.

    In a more general sense:

    I’m starting a series of short FreeBSD books, each dedicated to a single topic. Which topics will I cover? Whatever I’m working with at the moment, that’s holding still long enough for me to write about it. For example, at this moment it doesn’t make sense for me to write a book about pkgng, because pkgng is developing quickly.

    Eventually, I’ll create enough FreeBSD content to “remix” into a big FreeBSD book, probably a 3rd edition of Absolute FreeBSD.

    The small books will use the 6×9 form factor, and all be about the size of SSH Mastery. People have taken well to this size of book at the $10 ebook/$20 print price point.

    This will also let me judge which material should go into a big book. If nobody buys, say, a small FreeBSD virtualization book, it’s clear I shouldn’t put that topic into a big book, because nobody cares.

    Ideally, I’ll be able to produce a slipcase for a complete collection of small FreeBSD books. At this time, I’m planning to give them themed covers based on old pulp magazines, minus the blatant sexism and racism. (It’s been suggested by more than one person that I keep both elements but make them funny. It CAN be done, just as it is possible to make thoughtful, incisive, and honestly funny jokes about any other painful or horrifying topic. But it’s extraordinarily hard, especially for someone who looks utterly “privileged white male.” I choose to spend my energy elsewhere.) But Beastie as a hard-boiled private eye, Beastie swinging on a vine through the jungle, Beastie as the flying ace, and so on? I think that’s going to look fantastic.

    What will the OpenBSD book be? I have three ideas. I’ve caught wind of other OpenBSD books in progress, however. I need to meet with my fellow BSD authors at BSDCan 2014 and hash things out with them. It’s very important that we not step on each other’s else’s projects, especially when it’s simple enough to avoid with five minutes at the bar. That’s why I won’t do, say, a pfSense book — Chris and Jim have that territory covered quite well. I’m confident that at least one of my three ideas will be free, if for no other reason than we don’t have that many OpenBSD authors.

    I expect to let the FreeBSD Foundation have books at cost for PBS-style donation prizes. “Donate $100, and we’ll send you this $20 book!”

    I have a clever idea for using the OpenBSD book to support OpenBSD. Theo and I discussed it briefly at EuroBSDCon. I don’t know if it will actually work, mind you. But worst case, they’ll have my book in the OpenBSD bookstore, with proceeds going to OpenBSD. (For anyone who is wondering, Austin Hook is very very easy to work with. The hardest part of getting books to the OpenBSD bookstore is figuring out how to cram all the shipping information onto the CreateSpace web form, which is certainly not Austin’s fault.)

    So, is this a cynical scheme to get you to give me more money? No… and yes.

    You’ll have the option to give me any amount of money you wish, from zero up to over a hundred bucks. There’s a couple people that I suspect will buy every book, in every version. I suspect others will get a few of the small books. Others will wait for a big book. Some will buy all the small books just so they can fill a slipcase. This is about options. It’s about getting content into reader’s hands as quickly as possible.

    But if you want to give me money, I’m certainly not going to argue.

    The good news is, I now know exactly what an appendolith feels like. The next time my appendix blows up, I’ll jump on it at the earliest possible moment. Why, just today I’ve felt three twinges that might have been a faulty appendix. Catching these things early is the key to quick recovery, after all.

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