The Best Advice I Have Ever Received

I was at a corporate function yesterday, and it was one of these deals where you have to go and introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met before, and then answer a question that pops up on the screens around the room. It’s an effort to get everyone to break out of their shell and network. They called it a “Mad-Hatter’s Tea Party”.

Some of the questions?

What is your super power? (I put people together to solve problems.)

What do you look forward to about coming to work every day? (Pursuing on my own grand ideas.)

Pretty usual corporate stuff, and honestly, I don’t remember the other person’s answers. I met a lot of people in a short amount of time, and it’s all kind of a blur.

But one of the questions stuck with me after the event, and all the way through the day today.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received?

I actually came up with three pieces of advice that have stuck with me for many, many years, and relayed them to the gentleman I was chatting with at the time.

The first one was from my friend Brandon, the day I went over to his house to tell him I was thinking of asking Lisa to marry me. I asked him how to make it work. His advice: “Don’t keep score.”  Don’t track who did the dishes last or who paid the bills or who put the kids to bed. Assume your spouse is always doing the absolute best they can, and if you truly are doing the best you can, things will balance out if you love and respect each other.

I’m not perfect at doing that, but it is something I think about often.

The second piece of advice one was from a friend of mind named Randy, all the way back in 1996. We were on our way back from Ottawa to Oshawa after partying it up in the Capitol over New Year’s Eve. I was telling him about how many hours I was working, and how I had these big ambitions, and how I would go back to my high school reunion and show everyone who thought I would never make it, how far I’d come. In one little sentence, he shook me to my core:

What if they don’t care?”

I said, “What do you mean? Of course they’ll care!”

He pointed out that between the time I graduated from high school and the time I’d see these people at some reunion down the road, they’d have lived a lot of their lives, and had their own challenges and triumphs, and they likely wouldn’t remember my awkward teenage years. He said, to paraphrase, that whatever I’m doing now, I’d better be doing it for myself, because doing things for other people, especially people who aren’t part of your daily life, is doing things for all the wrong reasons. It took a while to get that message through my thick skull, but I never forgot what he said. I hope I’ve done the right things for the right reasons all these years later.

The third best piece of advice was from a coworker (don’t remember who) when I was first starting out in the IT world. I was working a ridiculous number of hours back then (this was before I figured out exactly what #2 meant.) I was proud that I was critical to my project and said something along the lines that the project would be in trouble without me there. That was the moment someone piped up and said “The graveyard is filled with people who thought they were indispensable.” I laughed. The wiser people in attendance nodded in the way only people who have seen the door hit them in the ass on the way out can nod.

A few years later, I was in the same type of position, where I was absolutely essential to the team, and was starting to throw my weight around. I said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, and I was gone by 10:00 AM the next day. The security guard held the door for me on the way out.

So now that I’m much more mature and older, I’ve started handing out these tidbits of wisdom to my younger colleagues. Maybe some of them take it to heart. Maybe some of them blow it off and learn the hard way. But I know that those three pieces of advice have made a major difference in my approach to life and to work. I try my best to not keep score, to do things for the right reasons, and to maintain perspective and balance in my work life. I’d like to think I’m doing all three pretty well… but I’m always watching out for that swinging door.

So what are the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

As a Bee

So besides my normal day job (which is still incredibly crazy), the last two weeks have been pretty busy.

We had a party for my wife’s 11th anniversary of a certain birthday that women seem to celebrate far more times than seems normal.

We (finally) accepted an offer on our former home. (YAY!)

We celebrated my kids’ birthdays. Twice.

I’ve been editing my fingers to the bone trying to get a line-edit done on Nowhere Wild (due mid February.)

This week, we close on our new house, then have two and a half days of painters being there, one day for carpet cleaning downstairs, three days for the flooring folks to do their thing in the upstairs, and one day for air duct and house cleaning before the movers arrive to shuttle our furniture to the new place. And of course, there’s all the packing we have to do, and cleaning of the rental, unpacking at the new place and changing of addresses. The next ten days will likely be insane on a scale I haven’t seen in quite a while.

The good news is, I’m settling in to a new daily routine that gives me an hour of writing time every weekday morning, and that’s really helping to get the edits done and the juices flowing. I’m hoping to hold onto that routine even after the edits are done so I can jump right into the next story.

Soon, I’ll start posing some original thoughts here. There’s a lot coming in the next few months and you’ll get to hear about it all, right here.

The Big Announcement

Remember when I said you might have to wait for a while to hear my big announcement? Well, a while turned out to be less than 24 hours.

Are you ready?

I mean, are you really ready?

Are you absolutely sure you’re ready?

Because this is big.

Really big.

Gigantic even.

Ok. Fine. Here it is… (even though I don’t think you’ve really prepared yourself for this.)

(takes a breath)

HarperCollins Canada has set the Canadian release date for my debut novel, Nowhere Wild, to August 25th, 2015!

Yes, that’s right. On August 25th, 2015, (just in time for the last big weekend of the summer) you will be able to pick up your very own copy of Nowhere Wild in hardcover or on the e-reader of your choice, on-line, or wherever fine books are sold (in Canada)!

Want proof?

You can actually pre-order the book from a couple of places today, including (but not limited to) Amazon.ca and Indigo Books.

I have to say, seeing the actual publication date on a retail website made this feel so much more real than all the emails I’ve exchanged with my editor and my agent over the past two years. It got a little hard to breathe for a moment.

And then I remembered that this means I have a ton of work to do this year. And I almost passed out. No, not really. But I was pretty giddy the rest of the day.

Now, I will attempt to answer a few questions, before anyone asks:

1. When will the book be available in the United States or Europe or anywhere besides Canada?

Those dates have not yet been set, but we are working on it. As soon as I can say, you can bet I’ll have another big announcement.

2. Does this mean the book is done?

Nope… it means we’re into the home stretch on the plot edits, and now starting the line edits, the copy edits, and the proofs. I’ll be editing my fingers off through the spring, meeting deadlines and trying not to panic. And oh yeah, working on my next book.

3. Your bio on the Amazon page looks wrong.

I noticed that too. We’re getting it corrected. Don’t let my son know it says I have twin daughters.

4. What is the cover going to look like?

HarperCollins will take care of that, and I haven’t seen it yet. Hopefully something with aliens and unicorns. Wait… that’s a different book. Never mind.

5. Are you doing a book tour?

We haven’t discussed this yet, but at the very least, I will be doing local signings whenever I can. I anticipate making some trips up to BC in August or September, and hopefully a trip to Ontario as well. We’ll see what else I can fit into this crazy life.

6. Can I get an advanced copy?

Since the book isn’t finished yet, I don’t have any to give away. I will likely have some give-away books and prizes as we get ready for the launch, so stay tuned!

7. Is it better to pre-order now, or should everyone wait until closer to the launch date to order to help boost the ranking on the sites?

My understanding is that pre-orders are grouped together and the credit to the author’s rank hits the day the book is released. So a thousand books sold 6 months out weights the same as 1000 the day before launch. So by all means, pre-order as soon as you’d like. And have your friends pre-order… and their friends pre-order…

8. Is August 25, 2015 the absolute final date? Or will it move, again?

August 25th is the official target publication date. Once that date is announced, wheels start turning faster and faster, and deadlines get tougher and tougher. Sure the date could move, but we’ll all be doing everything we can to hit that date.

That’s all I’ve got for now. There will be updates galore as we march through 2015. If you have any questions though, let me know, and I’ll try to get them answered as best I can.

Now, back to writing. I’ve got a lot to get done!

So Many Secrets…

So I didn’t blog much in 2014…just 9 entries by my count. Nine. I used to do that in two weeks. So I don’t blame you if you’ve given up hope of ever hearing from me again. It’s just that there have been so many things going on that I couldn’t talk about. I was afraid that talking about them would jinx something. Or worse, get me fired.

So now I’m going to walk you through a long chain of events that will lead to a series of announcements.

Last year, at this time, I started a new contract software development job. I detailed my opening month in one of my few posts last year, talking about the difficulty of living with GBS, even after the two-year mark. I got through the early months of the job, by pushing hard, and nearly breaking myself in the process. I spent long days at work, then spent ridiculous hours each day commuting. I suffered from anxiety attacks and my body was slowly falling apart. The candle wasn’t burning at both ends, I was holding a blow torch the center. There were many days in those first few months where I didn’t know how much longer I could keep doing it. Things had to change.

But as challenging as the work and schedule was, I enjoyed it. The top-secret project I worked on was the first in quite a while not only dealing with cool technology, but also something I wanted to see through to the end. I couldn’t tell my friends about it, or anyone outside of my immediate family. There was a cool factor to the project that I hadn’t experienced before, and I was drawn to it. I had many conversations with my boss about switching from contract work to full-time work throughout the year, but there was always something standing in the way… impending business changes, budget issues, management issues, product changes—my health. I couldn’t do anything about the business side stuff, besides doing my job as best I could to ensure they wanted to keep me around, and making the project a success. But I could do something about my health. I needed to reduce the stress in my life, and the best way to do that was to reduce my commute.

So in late July, after much debate and planning, my wife and I put our house on the market, and began packing up our things. At the end of August, we moved 45 miles to a rented townhouse in a suburb on the east side of Lake Washington. My commute dropped from 55 minutes on the way to work, to 19, and from 75-120 minutes on the way home to 25-30. The positive effect on my health was immediate. My energy level came up. My sleep improved. The anxiety diminished. I was able to do more in the evenings. I was more engaged at work.

Still, there were some unresolved issues. I was basically on a month-to-month contract at work. I was interviewing for new jobs since I didn’t know if I would be out of work in a few days or a few weeks. I was in demand, and that was really cool. Moving to the East Side (as it’s called around here), opened up a ton of positions for someone doing my kind of work. But I was still really happy with what I was working on, and more than that, the product was getting really close to shipping. Luckily my contract kept getting renewed, and I was there the day the product launched. I’ve be doing this type of work for over 20 years, and I have to say, launch day was the biggest thrill of my working career.

I’ve since been able to tell people I know what it was I was doing… but I’ve never said it here on this blog… until now. Check this out… the Microsoft Band.

band

Maybe it doesn’t look like much in that picture, but it’s a really cool product, has gotten some great reviews and I think it has a bright future ahead of it. I’ve been wearing one pretty much continuously for nearly a year now, and I feel naked without it.

After the launch, I made the decision that I was, in fact, ready to make the jump to Full-Time Employee. I wanted to continue to be part of this project, and to continue to work with the people I’ve gotten to know this last year. It took a little work, but we finally got the deal done shortly before Christmas. Today was my first day as a Microsoft Full-Time Employee! I’m excited to be part of the team, and have big things in mind for the future.

As if that’s not enough big news, I have more. On Christmas Eve, my wife and I agreed to purchase a new house in the neighborhood in which we’ve been trying to find a house since last spring. We should be moving in in early February. The four of us have been stuffed into this small townhouse for many more months than initially planned, and I’m looking forward to having a real office back… an office that isn’t in a damp, drafty basement. This house is perfect for us, and with a little bit of work (new carpets, paint and some kitchen work), it should be something our family can love for the next 15 years. It has awesome views, is close to two parks, and lots of kids in the same age as my kids, so they should never be bored. We can’t wait!

Okay… so… announcements this far

  1. We moved
  2. I was part of the team that launched the Microsoft Band
  3. I am now a Blue Badge at Microsoft
  4. We bought a house

I know I’m forgetting something.

Was it the 130+ gallons of cider we made at this year’s CiderFest that I didn’t blog about?

Nope, that was fun, but not it.

Was it the week-long trip we took to Maui in November?

There was that… and it was awesome. But that’s not it either.

Was it going on my first hike in over 4 years a few weeks ago without worrying about my GBS or foot surgery or broken bones?

Nope, that was fantastic, but still not it.

Was it how much I’ve been able to help out at the orchard this year and the fact that I got to run a chainsaw during the Christmas break?

Nope. But I do enjoy working in the orchard. And running a chainsaw? Always fun.

Wait. I know what it is. But I can’t talk about that yet… dang it!

Soon though. Very soon.

And I promise, I will be blogging a lot more in 2015. Because 2015 is going to be a wild ride. It’ll be a year that changes EVERYTHING.

Until I can make the big reveal, watch this Miranda Lambert video – Automatic. And tell me it doesn’t hit you right in your adolescent years (If you were an adolescent who had to record the Top 40 off the radio onto a cassette). But don’t just watch this video until I make the next announcement… find some other songs and watch those too. I could be a few days.

PNWA Conference 2014 Wrap Up

Technically, the PNWA Conference isn’t yet wrapped up… but it is wrapped up for me. I’m skipping the Sunday morning sessions to take care of some stuff at home, and to recover before the start of a very busy upcoming week.

First of all, the conference was fantastic. Pam Binder and the whole crew did an awesome job of putting it together. I learned a lot, met up with fellow writers (and friends) I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, made new contacts, and heard great speakers. Hopefully everyone else there got at least as much out of it as I did.

I came away from the conference with a few goals. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Get more involved in the PNWA on a monthly basis. I’ve been limited over the last three years due to health issues and time, but hopefully all that is, or soon will be, behind me. I’ve got a project lined up with one the PNWA Board members that we should be able to get traction on in September that is going to be really, really fun for a lot of people. More to come on that in the future.

2. I’m going to try out Scrivener as a writing tool for my next book. I’ve been using a mix of Microsoft Word, Excel, One Note and notepad for all my books up to this point, but I heard nothing but good things about Scrivener at the conference, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to make it work.

3. I’ve got ideas for one, and possibly two, and maybe three classes to give at next year’s PNWA conference. I’m going to start putting the ideas together soon, and turning them into blog entries to see if I can’t crowd-source some of the areas where I have gaps in my knowledge.

4. If I’m going to do #3, I’m going to have to make time in my schedule for resuming my Toastmasters classes. Being able to get up and speak in front of large numbers of people still isn’t easy for me, so practice will make perfect there.

5. I need to figure out my YA Platform. I’ve got this blog, but this is more of a personal blog, and not so much targeted towards my YA audience. Not quite sure how to go about doing that yet, but it’s a must have for this year.

6. I need to start reading again. My writing was so much better when I was reading more, and more frequently.

7. I need to get started on my next novel. It’s going to be YA Speculative Fiction. I’ve got the characters in my head, and the general plot and setting. It’s just a matter of sitting down and getting the outline done.

So, lots to do, and little time to do it. But I have ways of making more time, and in a week or two, I’ll be making the first of many announcements in this regard. Stay tuned.

PNWA Conference 2014 Day Two

It’s seems like just a couple of hours ago we were sitting at tables in the main conference room listening to Jim Rollins’ excellent  keynote speech. I arrived home last night, completely exhausted and climbed straight into bed. Morning came too early.

Highlights from yesterday include having dinner with Jason Black where we talked about the plots for our next books, meeting fellow soon-to-be-published author Andie Newton, and hearing about self-publishing through VisualQuill.com.

I’ve got a bit of conference throat going on today… a deep, sexy, gravelly sound that starts somewhere in my chest and escapes as a whisper (and a whimper if I try to project my voice too much). Part of that has to do with a shot to the Adam’s Apple I took yesterday when I bent down to pick up my son to give him a hug and he jumped at the same time, embedding his shoulder deep into my windpipe. I’ll drink a lot of tea today and try to do more listening than talking.

I’m looking forward today to meeting up with Rachel Letofsky from the Cooke Agency (who represents me) to catch up with everything going on in Toronto.

Anyway, time to pay attention to what’s going on around me.

Again, say hi if you see me around.

Made it to PNWA Conference 2014!

Yes, it’s just down  the road from where I live, but I haven’t been able to make it to the PNWA Conference the last two years. This year, however, I made it! So, rejoice!

I’ve already met many of old friends from previous years, and made some new ones, so the money is already well-spent. And this year, the WIFI is free, so I can actually write and post this blog during the conference as opposed to a wrap up at the end of the conference.

This year I’m not doing any volunteer work at the conference. Life has been far to busy to take on anything like that. And since I missed the last two years,  and was a volunteer at the previous two, this year I just wanted to spend time attending the panels, learning and being inspired. I haven’t done nearly enough writing lately (for reasons that will become more public in the coming weeks and months), and exposure to writers and writing is the best inspiration I can find.

Anyway, back to the conference. If you see me here, say hi. If you’re not here, and you’re a writer, make the effort to find a writing conference you can attend. It’ll be some of the best money you’ve ever spent.

A Busy Bee

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve had time to chat. I assure you that this doesn’t mean I don’t love y’all. It’s just that life has been really busy. I mean really busy.

Three nights a week, my son has Little League. Reece loves playing ball, and he’s really good for his age. Friday night, while playing 2nd base, he made all three outs in one inning, catching two pop flies, and snagging a grounder and beating the runner to second. He’s a non-stop chatterbox on the field (sometimes too chatty), and knows the game quite well (but not as well as he thinks he does). He’s in the Under-8 Coach Pitch League this year since he’s only seven, but his coach thinks he should be bumped up to AA next year (insert Proud Papa grin here). I’ve been coaching first base for the team, and helping out with warm-ups and practices. It’s fun, but it’s also tiring, especially when we have a game on Wednesday, a practice on Thursday and a game on Friday. But there’s only two weeks left of the season, so I’ll probably survive.

Work wise, my hours have been a lot more reasonable lately… back to about forty hours a week, which is the only way baseball and everything else have been possible. The commute is still hard… plenty of hour and a half trips home at the end of the day, but I’ve also had the flexibility to leave early in the afternoons before traffic get’s too bad and finish the day from home if all my meetings are done. I still work from home at least one day a week, and that helps a bunch. Employers, I can’t stress enough how important having flexible work arrangements is for your employees. Not only does it help me manage my health, it also allows me to participate in my kids evening activities. And I know I’m more productive because of that.

As for my health, it’s been pretty good, at least compared to where I was in January and February. I still have down days, especially after I push through busy weeks. Sundays are a key day to get some rest. This three day weekend will include a lot of recharging time.

My eyes continue to be the biggest issue I face on a day-to-day basis. They’re worst first thing in the morning. On days where I work from home and jump straight onto the computer after getting up, everything is blurry for half an hour or more, and then starts to come into focus. I don’t know if this is old age or GBS related. Could be a little of both. I’d love to hear from other GBS’ers as to whether or not they’ve had the same issue with their vision. I still have the ‘jumping-eye’ symptom in the early morning. I wish I had more time to do my eye exercises, but by the time I get home in the evening, my eyes are so fatigued that I can’t get them to focus for long enough to do it. Doing the exercises in the morning means I wouldn’t be able to do anything else for an hour afterward as they tire out my muscles that much.

As for writing, I am starting to toy with some ideas for my next book. I’ve bounced around on the big “What if…?” question a lot, but I’m starting to get closer. I’d still like to write a new book this year, but I’ll need to figure out how to work it into my current work and life schedule. I’m feeling the need to write something though, so I know I haven’t left that desire behind. It’s just been dormant for a while.

I’m looking forward to a summer filled with baseball games, family trips and the PNWA Conference coming up in July. Between that, work, and writing, it’s going to be a busy few months. I probably won’t be blogging a lot, but stop by frequently, as I do expect to be making several big announcements before the end of the summer. Can’t say what they are, or when they might come, but I do have some things in the works, and I can’t wait to be able to start talking about them!

A Potpourri of Updates on a Rainy Saturday Afternoon

It’s been a crazy couple of months. I don’t remember the last Saturday when I wasn’t working, on the road, or completely under my GBS symptoms. But today, I decided to take it easy. I needed a down day after so much craziness. Note that a down day still included a trip to the bank, fixing a plugged sink drain, watering the plants, 3 loads of laundry, doing the taxes, buying tickets to a baseball game and sending some overdue emails. All stuff that should have been done a while ago.

So what’s been keeping me busy? Well, work mainly. My last contract had a maximum of 40 hours per week. This contract has no such clause. It’s work until the work is done, and the last two weeks have seen my time sheet hit 55 hours—an unthinkable number just a year ago. Even two months ago, 55 was  something I didn’t want to do… and to be honest, I still don’t want to do it now. I’m not 25 anymore. But every once in a while, it’s what you need to do for the job. All I can say is that I’m so glad I get paid by the hour. I think I worked at least a little bit every day for the last 26 days. Crazy.

But scrunched into all that, were some other, really important things. Recently my son tested for his Advanced White Belt in Tae-Kwon-Do. Six months ago, when he started, he’d often become frustrated by not knowing how to do the moves required, and would come off the floor crying (he was 6 after all, that wasn’t unexpected). But the last class before testing for his belt, he was instructing the newest kids in the class on what to do. The confidence gained through his classes has been astounding, and we’re so proud of him. Here’s Reece getting ready to kick some butt. And yes, he usually is the smallest kid in the class.

2014-02-22 10.00.19

On the writing front, I’ve not been writing much, again, mainly because of my work schedule. I’m due to get another round of edits from my editor next week. I spent the first weekend of February doing edits, and now it’s time to turn it around again. I never imagined when I started the writing thing that so many editing passes would be needed to get something published. But I think we’re getting closer. I’m hoping the edits this time around aren’t too major, but I’m planning on hunkering down next weekend to get them done.

When I do have time to relax (we’re talking less than an hour every evening), I’ve been working my way through a few television shows. I finished seasons 5,6 and 7 of Dexter, and yesterday finished season 5 of Breaking Bad. I can finally read the internet again, and not worry about seeing a Breaking Bad finale spoiler. I’m also finishing up season 3 of Game of Thrones. This show actually took me a while to get into. Now, I love it.

My commute back and forth to work has been about as bad as I expected it to be. 50 minutes on the way in (provided I leave before 5:25 AM), and anywhere from an hour (if I leave by 3 PM) to almost two hours if I leave anytime after 3:30 PM. I do get to work from home on days I don’t have meetings scheduled, and that helps. But what really helps is listening to PodCasts like NPR’s Planet Money and Chris Hardwick’s http://www.nerdist.com/. There have been a few times I actually wished my commute was a bit longer so I could hear just a little more that day.

On the health side of things, it’s been up and down for the last month or so. I had bad migraines for about ten days (probably caused by stress and fatigue), and as soon as they were gone, I picked up the cold everyone at work has. I’m in the midst of that now, hopefully nearing the end of it. From the GBS perspective, it hasn’t been bad, but I seem to recall that when my body is fighting something, the symptoms are, oddly enough, never as bad as normal. So we’ll see what happens in a week or so.

So that’s about it for now. I’d love to say I’ll going to get back to blogging more, but that’s probably not going to be the case anytime soon. Work is going to continue to be ridiculously busy for a while, and soon my son’s baseball season will start, and we’ll be doing something 3 or 4 nights a week. Blogging takes a back seat to that.

But I am thinking more about writing again. My brain is trying to figure out what world it wants to immerse itself into, and I’m already looking forward to the PNWA conference in July. Being creative isn’t something I can completely turn off. I’m glad that’s the case.