Monday, January 31, 2022

Cover Reveal

As you may know, I've been going 'round and 'round with both the cover and the title for Untitled Fantasy.  I had several front runners.  I even thought of holding a poll here.  But in the end, I decided for myself like a big girl.  Yay!

And the winner is... :drumroll: 

Shroudlands Book One: SONG OF STORM AND SHROUD

Gah, and now I need a blurb to go with the cover and the title.  It's an epic fantasy with mages and spells and magical creatures.  There's action and adventure, a quest, and death.  And, of course, a dragon.  She's right there on the cover, after all.  

I'm working on editing now.  It's a long haul, but I can see the end.  I'm hoping for a book release no later than April Fool's Day.  I expect earlier.  I'm shooting for under-promise and over-deliver there.

And here's a snap of a snip of the beginning... just to whet your appetite.  (Click on it to make it large enough to read.)

Hope you like it.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Fun of Being an Author

There are sites where it is, apparently, great fun to publicly poke fun at the covers of books.  I landed on one once with the original cover for Wish In One Hand.  It was humiliating.  Especially considering I'd paid a supposed artist a heaping helping of money to create that cover.  It wasn't what I wanted, but I allowed myself to be bullied into accepting it.  I was backed into a corner, with my release date fast approaching, so I went forth with a cover I was not proud of.  

If you saw it, I apologize.  Once I finished licking my wounds and refilling my coffers, I paid another artist to create the covers you see now for it and it's sequels.  

I create my own covers for the non-fantastic books I write.  They're not bad.  Okay, maybe a couple.  Oddly enough, Accidental Death is the first cover people point to off my bookmarks and say that's the one they're interested in reading.  Doesn't sell well online, but in person, it's da bomb.  It's sequel is also not a great cover.  :shrug:  Maybe someday I'll do new covers for them now that I'm better at it.

Of course, now, I have a fantasy novel in the works.  And I'm trying to do the cover myself.  I made a dragon.  She's pretty cool and I'm proud of the effort.  Unfortunately, every time I try to incorporate her into a cover, she looks like a bad photoshop job.  

I worked on it for about 2 hours last night, so maybe it was staring at it for all that time that finally made me throw my hands up.  I'll try again today.

Oh, I could probably find a cover artist for this.  My other artist, the one I like, is super busy and fantasy ain't her bag anyway.  There are others.  But 1) I'm gun-shy after my encounter with the dude who shall remain nameless (mainly because I'm repressing that and because I do not wish to get sued at this late date). And 2) I want to do this for myself.  

But yeah, the fear is there that I'll end up on another one of those sites that pan bad book covers.  That can't be good for sales.  Nothing like being the target of ridicule.  Woohoo.

Of course, I've also been working on titles.  I'm leaning toward Shroudlands: The Battle for Kingshead, but again, I spent so much time looking at that in various fonts that I now kind of hate it.  Or maybe I just need to rename the city.  Or maybe I should've just spent last night reading a book.

It's so much fun being an author.  Derp.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Play Amongst Yourselves

Oops.  I opened this to write a new post and then I got caught up in working on spreadsheets for the ol' payjob.  And now, two hours later, here I am with no post.  Unfortunately, I need to focus on creating my dragon and on coming up with a title.  Play amongst yourselves.

Oh, and if you're interested, I posted a snippet of this book in the comment section at Silver's place this morning.  Wednesday Words and all that.  Read hers, read mine.  Enjoy yourselves.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Working on It

 I finished that round of edits on Untitled Fantasy on Saturday.  Right now, it's 368 pages long and just a hair under 108K words.  Publication day is getting closer.  Not sure when it will be, but it'll definitely in sight now.  (If you have a good pair of binoculars.  LOL)

So, that means I need to get moving on two things... 1) a cover, and 2) a title.

I started something the other day with regard to the cover.  Spent copious hours on it, then scrapped it.  Yesterday morning, I hit it again with all new images and I've got something.  It's not quite right yet, but I think I'm getting there. 

What I did worked like this... scour Morguefile for free images of lizards, found ones I thought could work as a dragon and saved those.  Open the files, erase all the background around the lizard.  Find wings that were the right size and orientation to fit said lizard.  Find teeth that were the right size and potentially the right orientation.  Take those and erase the backgrounds.  Cobble them together so they look like they actually belong on the same animal.

But wait... in my particular art program, when you save an image as a jpg, it gives the damn thing a white background.  So, I spent some extra time erasing the lizard's background again and then saving it as a mic file (Microsoft Image Composer).  Okay, so now my 'sprites' are happy and I can play with them.  Of course, once I get a beast cobbled together, I'll have to save it as a jpg so the sprites work together as one image, and then I'll have to erase the damn background again.  (Yes, there probably IS an easier way, but I haven't found it yet.  I suspect it lies within software I don't have, don't want to buy, and don't want to learn.)

The super easier, and also more expensive, way is to pay someone else to do this for me.  Umm, yah.  Umm, no.  I love my go-to cover artist, but she is super busy, as in like booking for next year, and I don't think epic fantasy is her bailiwick.  I could look for another artist, but I keep having flashbacks of the first cover for Wish in One Hand.  OMG, that was SOOOOO bad and an incredibly expensive lesson to learn.  Like with getting a haircut, I hate paying for bad service, so I do it myself.  If this cover is going to be bad, at least I didn't pay for it, eh?

Anyway, I think I have the setting image - all tweaked and ready to go - all I need now is a dragon.  I think it's a bearded dragon base with flying fox wings and snake teeth.  Right now, it looks like the weird mating of a gargoyle and that gremlin in Gremlins 2 who grew wings.  But I can work with that.

Oh, yeah, and #2... the title.  I've been playing with stuff in my head, trying to find something that makes me stand up and salute.  I thought up Mageborn... but it's still not right and of course, someone else is using it.  (And yes, I know, finding a title someone else HASN'T used isn't necessary, but I want what I want, so I'll try my damndest.)  Thinking about it now, maybe Mage Against the Shrouds... which could make the next book Mage Within the Shrouds.  That seems interesting...  Has that fantasy ring to it.  And it isn't already used.  Hmm.  Ooo, maybe Twins Against the Shrouds... eh, mage seems better.  

Okay, well, time to toddle off.  Work to do.  Calls to make.  

Anyway, as you can see, I'm working on it.  What are you working on these days?

Friday, January 21, 2022

Can You See Them?

I have a confession to make.  When I write a story, or even when I read one, I can't see the characters.  

I don't think my brain works that way.  Maybe it did before it got crumpled, but it doesn't now.

Oh, I hear them fine.  And I do have a general impression of what they look like.  But I couldn't give their descriptions to a sketch artist and have them draw these people so they'd look like what I think they look like.  I couldn't pick them out of a line-up.  Because I don't think they look like anything more than an amorphous blob.

Looking for models for my book covers was the hardest thing.  My cover artist gave me a link to the site she uses and had me go at it.  I scanned hundreds of photos to find the best approximation of what Jo Mayweather and Jeni Braxxon look like.  I must've scanned hundreds more to find images for Accidental Death and Natural Causes, and those aren't even full face.  All I had to do was find a general shape.  

Once I'm made to go look for a character's face, then they have a face forever after.  Jo will always look like the cover model to me now.  So will Jeni.  Before that?  Not a clue.  Once I went looking for an image of Zeke - because I think someone asked me for it - and Zeke now looks like that dude.  (I'd show you, but the link to that model is broken now.  Oops.)

I have author friends who are all like 'this is what my character looks like' and they'll show a picture they found.  I'm a little jealous of those folks.  I want to see my creations in my head, but I can't.  

Thinking about it now, I can't really hold the images of someone's face in my head either.  Real life people are amorphous blobs, too.  :shrug:

As a result, I'm probably not the best at describing my characters in writing.  At least, I don't feel like I'm the best.  My readers are probably a better judge of that than I am.  The image the reader has in their heads probably isn't anywhere close to what I would have, if, you know, I had an image.  I guess that's okay.  I want the reader to picture the characters as they see them.  I guess what I do write as description is sufficient for that purpose.  

Like in Untitled Fantasy... Captain Vere, the head of the Academy, is tall and wiry with silver hair (not silver as in old, just silver) and a scar running down her cheek.  She's a battle-hardened lady and obviously tough enough to run an academy full of kids learning magic and skills for battle, but there's a sadness to her as she never really had a childhood of her own and her twin was killed in battle.  Can ya picture her?  

But let's take Aryl, the main character.  He's average height/weight for a 15-year-old boy.  He's a farm boy, so he's got some physical strength, but he's also way smaller than his friend, Galin.  Black hair, violet eyes.  And that's all I've got for him.  Can't picture anything else, so there he is.  And I need to go find a model for him so I can do the freakin' cover.  Derp.

His sister, Lyra...  White hair, violet eyes.  Pretty.  Or at least pretty to Galin.  I guess she would have a similar facial structure to Aryl... they are twins, after all, even if it's fraternal and not identical.  Since I can't see him, I can't really give you her either.  She's a wisp of a dream of a drawing of a person.

Galin... Aryl's best friend and sweet on Lyra.  Big dude for his age.  A 'pull the plow when the horses get tired' kind of guy.  

Anyway, I don't want to talk about every character here.  I have the basics, but I can't SEE them.  Wish I could.  Can't.  

What about you?  Can you see the characters you write or read?  Are they fully-formed or just blobs?  Does having a picture help?  Or when you see a pic of the characters do they totally harsh the image you formed on your own?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Wave of the Future or Flash in the Pan?

More and more, I'm seeing stuff that isn't the title in the title of books.  The other morning, I saw 'TITLE: A gripping psychological thriller you do not want to miss' as the title of a book.  


This annoys me greatly, as I have said before.  However, I'm beginning to wonder if readers are so used to this, as well as being so 'short attention span theater' these days, that I'm missing the boat.


Although, at this point, the word gripping really rubs me the wrong way.  If everything is gripping, is anything really gripping?  Nowadays, I'm all like "Oh, yeah... :eyeroll: ...a gripping psychological thriller... ri-ight."

But is this something I should be doing?  I don't mean the gripping thing.  But the adding a descriptive puff after the title.  

Dying Embers: A Flaming Good Suspense with Arson and Murder and a slight tinge of romance
Accidental Death: A Small Town Revenge-filled Romp in the Snow
Wish in One Hand: A Suspense-filled Urban Fantasy with Snarky Genies

Would that really sell more books?  I always figured I said everything that needed to be said in the blurb.  Along with a... pardon me... gripping title and cover.  And, you know, the general GENRE listing.  :heavy sigh:

Maybe it isn't enough anymore.  Maybe readers really don't want to take the time to read a blurb anymore.  Maybe they'd be more inclined to read the blurb if they already saw it what it was in the title.  

Project Hermes: A Thrilling Political Suspense with Techno and Medical Stuff
Blink of an I: A dark, yet suspenseful and thrilling glimpse into the future
Unequal: A dark, thought-provoking suspenseful dystopian with medical stuff

Meh.  I'm really loathe to do this.  It might be the wave of the future.  I hope it's just a flash in the pan.  Because if I have to do this, you saw up there what might happen.  

I have a tough enough time coming up with blurbs and taglines.  You want short title descriptors, too?  

Monday, January 17, 2022

Is it Pertinent to the Story?

Okay, I know I'm probably gonna piss some people off by saying this, but those people probably don't stop by here anyway, so here goes... If your character's sexuality has nothing to do with the story, then you don't need to mention it.  Not in the story.  Not outside the story.  Not after the story's over.  No need to do a big reveal there, JK - it wasn't pertinent to the story.  Ever.

But let's say it is pertinent to your story in some way.  If your character is gay or bi, show them having romantic feelings toward a member of the same sex.  (Although, I'd only really think it was pertinent if you were writing romance - with suspense after or paranormal before or whatever).  Show a dude going out with his boyfriend.  Show a gal checking out another gal.  Make it smooth.  No need to beat your readers over the heads with it.  If you don't feel like you've gotten the point across without being explicit, work on your writing.

Unless, of course, you FEEL THE NEED to beat people over the heads with it.  Then, perhaps, you need to think about why you feel that way and whether you're writing fiction or proselytizing.  Personally, I prefer the fiction.  If I wanted the other thing, I can find it in plenty of other places.  Leave it out of the fiction.

Yeah, I DNF'd a book yesterday where the author came out with a good phrase about the female MC - she found a woman beautiful but the gal wasn't her type, but they'd already said she was living with a man, so I got the point there.  Then a couple pages later, the author actually came out and said the character was 'bi'.  Why?  I didn't miss it before, so why did it need to be explicit?  Because things like that have to be explicit in certain realms or you don't get credit?  :shrug:

That's poor writing, by the way.  If you can show it another way, you don't need to tell it.  Show, don't tell.  How many times have we writers heard or read that?  I couldn't begin to count over the past 18 years how many times I've heard it.  So many times, it's embedded in my head now.  

Personally, I don't care about a character's personal tastes in bed.  Unless I'm reading a romance and then I prefer the sexy bits align with my own preferences.  Same sex romances don't interest me, but more power to ya.  If it's not a romance... whatever floats your boats.  I used to enjoy an urban fantasy series* where the sidekick was gay.  She wove it in rather than tell the reader about it and it was just part of his personality.  Gnarly.  Write on, McDuff.   Actually, thinking about it now, I've read a lot of books where a character was gay and they were written as part of their personality.  It wasn't jammed in there like someone was checking a special box.  That's the way it ought to be done.  

In short, and I know I've said this before, the story is the thing.  Write the story, populate it with the people it requires, and write it to the best of your ability.  Show don't tell.  Etc. etc. etc.

* I say 'used to' because she stopped writing it.  Then I saw on social media where she'd gone full on ACTIVIST, so I didn't bother reading anything else by her**.  I enjoyed the stories but I don't enjoy indoctrination.  K thx bye.

** This has, unfortunately, happened a couple of times.  It makes me sad.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Woke Word, Keep Your Hands Off My Story

Yesterday I read an article at Not The Bee about how Microsoft has added a new feature to Word.  It will now alert you when you've used words that might be considered offensive.  

First, let me say that if you're a writer and you're worried about offending people, you probably should find something else to do with your life.  It doesn't matter what you write, you'll offend someone.  I know if I read a book that had been bashed into mush with this 'anti-offensiveness' feature, I would be offended because I would DNF it and feel like my time had been wasted.  Wasting my time offends me no end.

I read that story and laughed my ass off.  Right now, I'm in the middle of editing a 106K word fantasy manuscript.  The mages use Master/Mistress as titles.  Master Eenan and his sister, Mistress Uuwen would be aghast at being called Expert and Lover.  And they might just blast your butts back into the shrouds where you belong.  Eenan might be an expert, but Uuwen ain't no lover, she's a fighter.  ROFL.  

See?  Silly stuff there, folks.  

Lucky for me, my version of Word is so old that Microsoft washed its hands of me years ago.  I don't remember how long ago it was I got a notice they'd no longer be supporting that version, but I shrugged and thought 'no skin off my... err, nose'.  Now I'm genuinely glad I can't receive updates.  I don't want that woke crap on my computer.  Hell, I'd switch to WordPerfect and tell MS to kiss my ass if switching word processing and spreadsheet programs at this stage wouldn't be a totally pain in my buns.

Point here, folks?  I don't let anyone tell me how or what to write.  My editor and my betas can suggest things, but ultimately, I decide.  And after that first editor decided it would be good to school me after my use of the word 'spic' - one instance in dialogue, spoken by an asshole - I switched editors to someone who would be less offendsensitive.  

Watering things down to avoid the potential of hurting someone's feelings is wrong.  In the end, it will hurt the story.  And we're here to write and stay true to the stories to the best of our abilities.  At least, that's why I'm here.  

So, to Woke Word... keep your hands off my stories.  If I have to, I'll write the damn things by hand before I'll ever let you tell me what words are okay to use and which ones are 'bad'.  

Monday, January 10, 2022

Title Troubles

I believe one of you asked the other day whether I was any closer to coming up with a title for Untitled Fantasy.  Ummm... no.  

Titles are HARD.  

Okay, so maybe they're not always hard.  Sometimes the title pops right into my head.  Poof.  Most of the time, I at least have a working title.  This time?  Not a ding-dang thing is popping anywhere.

You see, I want a grabby title.  I want one that jumps up and says 'READ ME!'  I want readers to see it and say 'Wow, I have to buy that'.  

I also want one that gives some hint of the story.  Like Dying Embers... people are dying in fire.  Umm, yeah.  Or even an old switcheroo kind of thing, like with Accidental Death?  People are dying and it looks like accidents, but it isn't.  

With Wish in One Hand, it started out as Djinnocide.  That title didn't seem to be sparking any interest with agents and I was really wishing it would, but then I remembered something my dad used to say about wishing and the new title was born.  

Additionally, the title of this book has to say FANTASY without riffing off or ripping off any other fantasy series.  Unfortunately, the damn Dragonlance books have a twin thing going on in there.  Totally different take than I have, but the title Time of the Twins was taken.  (And, I just saw when searching, also stolen used by celebrity-type people for their own ghostwritten fantasy thing. Feh.)

I'm hoping for this to be a series.  That has a title, I think... Shroudlands.  And a just-now search of that shows it's been used.  Derp.  Warhammer.  And D&D.  Sometimes, you can't help but be similarly named.  Ideas abound and they aren't copyright-able, not there's wiggle room there.  

I'm already going to get slapped around for Sanderson, seeing as there's already a popular fantasy author with that last name.  (Might publish as my maiden name.  Still thinking about that.)

Anyway, the quick answer about titles is 'I don't have one'.  I wish I could send this off to a publisher and let them come up with a title.  But you know what Dad said about wishing.  ;o)

Friday, January 7, 2022

Picking Flowers Off the Wallpaper

In the interest of potentially finding more people to read the books I write, I'm beginning the journey of trying to be more sociable online.  (There's not much I can do about being more social in person.  I'm a hermit, for pitysakes.)

So, here's what I've been doing this week:

I've been commenting more on other people's posts.  It's not much and I'm not being especially profound, but if I have something nice to say, I say it.  "Way to go."  "That book sounds intriguing.  Thanks for posting about it."  

I friended like 3 more people and I'm looking for people to friend in the comments sections.  So it's not willy-nilly or friending without reason.  If they make a comment and it sounds like someone I might enjoy being around online, I send them a friend request.  Hopefully, they find something of value in me, too, and accept my requests.

I'm trying to remember to post on the blogs every day.  Actually, I'm trying to have these posts scheduled at least the night before, so I don't fall down on the job again.  Last night, I fell down, so here I am at 7am creating a post.  Come on, coffee.

And I'm trying to remember to post links to my blog posts on FB and MeWe.  This was a thing I used to do, but got out of the habit of.  Back at it again.  :whipcrack:  

Like I said on Wednesday, the point of this is to gain more potential readers, BUT it's not to post more about my books - which is kind of counter-intuitive.  So, while I have posted a link or two about the books being in wide distribution, I'm making that a rare type of post.  Sprinkle it here or there.  See if anything grows.

I've thought about starting to be active in the forums at KDP.  I used to be very active at the AbsoluteWrite forums, but then they pissed me off and I left.  The thought of going back to that kind of thing sort of makes me nauseous, but if I have to do it, I have to do it.  I wouldn't mind having a little hangout online somewhere, where people of like minds can get together.  Unfortunately, with the world the way it is, finding people who have minds like mine is a crap shoot.  Is there anywhere a body can talk about life and writing without political stuff getting in the way?  Or is that like locating a unicorn?

Now, I realize that stating here why I'm suddenly being more social and the self-serving nature of my socialness could turn some folks off.  Sorry about that.  I could be all fake and junk and say I'm giving in to my herd-beast nature, but that just wouldn't be my style.  If I'm out there and I find people who could truly be my friends, then great.  If not, that's okay.  The purpose of this is to find readers.  Anything else is sprinkles on the icing on the cake.

I am what I am - a wallflower.  Or a flower on the wallpaper.  Time to pick it.  If I have to.  I guess.

(And yes, I know that 'picking flowers off the wallpaper' is a euphemism for being nuts, but I thought it was funny.  And I'm feeling a little nuts these days.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

What's a Hermit to Do?

Last week sometime, a wildly popular (for his genre), money-making, indie author I follow was giving what he feels is the secret to his success - other than writing good books, that is.  It basically boiled down to making yourself visible and interesting on social media - in a non-marketing kind of way.  He says he rarely talks about his books on social media.  (Umm, not sure about that last one, but he does talk about more stuff  than his books, so maybe that's what he means.)  

Anyway, I read this.  And I immediately got depressed.  You know me.  I'm a hermit.  Sure, I'm sociable with the few people I know, but putting myself out there?  Umm... :crawls back under her rock:

This being a new year and all, though, I've been thinking about it.  I was way more social when I first published.  I was stopping at blogs and interacting with people and junk.  I even did some interacting on a forum or two.  Since then?  Yeah, the hermitude took over.

Oh, I'm still doing these blogs.  But I only stop at two or three others on a regular basis.  Maybe five, with only commenting on two or three.  Basically, I'm sitting here talking to myself and the few people who stop by.  

Now, I've never read this dude's books.  (They aren't in the budget.  Which is basically 0.)  They're probably pretty good.  People I respect have raved about them.  Maybe they're light-years better than my books.  :shrug:  Maybe it's just that he's out there.  And he is OUT THERE.  

And one thing this dude doesn't seem to ever worry about is pissing people off.  Which confuses me.  I worry about that all the time.  All. The. Time.  He's edgy.  He's loud.  He's opinionated.  And he doesn't care who knows it or how many times he gets his accounts suspended.  Me?  I speak my mind and then worry whether some asshole is going to report me and get my account blocked.  Or whether someone is going to get their undies in a wad and run over to Amazon to one-star all my books.  

Basically, I'm piglet.  As in, a very small animal.  I can't even comment on the dude's posts without feeling like the fat kid with cystic acne and thick glasses hiding next to the bleachers at the dance.  Hell, I can barely comment on the circle of friends' posts without feeling that way.  I try and without fail, I step on my tongue (err... fingers) and someone comes along to comment in such a way to insure I know I'm not part of their crowd.  

Hey, feels like high school.  Nearly thirty-four years later.  I am so screwed.

Okay, so what's a hermit to do?  Especially after nearly 7 years of publishing without being hardly social at all.  I mean, do I ease into the social sphere and spend countless hours/days/weeks getting to know folks?  Or do I jump in with both feet and be totally out there, who cares whether people like it, shock-jock writer?  

The easier answer is to throw money at it.  If I had money to throw, I'd throw it.  Since that's flat out, my choices are either get out there or resign myself to anonymity and the lackluster sales that go with it.

Anyway, I'm trying to comment more on FB and the blogs. And I need to get back to posting on MeWe.  I'll find the time or make the time.  

By the way, if you're here... Thanks.  You'll never know how much your continued support means to me.  If I ever make it big, I'll try to take you with me.

Monday, January 3, 2022

2021 Writerly Wrap-up

Well, 2021 is in the can.  Err... yeah, it was a shitcan, but it's over.  Now let's look back at it so we can move forward...

Out of a possible 365, I did something writerly 157 days.  Writing, editing, marketing, publishing, etc.  I only got one book published, but I finished writing it in 2021 and I finished writing the first draft (and the first round of edits) of another book this year.  I also noodled around with a couple other things.  I know I only worked 43% of the days, but that's about all I could manage in 2021.  It was an ass-kicking year whose name pretty much told the story - twenty-twenty WON.  

I did get one book published - Rumor Has It.  It sold 11.38 copies.

Speaking of sales... well, I did worse than 2020.  I only sold 69.92 books overall.  I made a little bit more money over 2020, but I had fewer 99c sales, so there was that.  I won't bother you with the book-by-book breakdown I usually do.  It was bad.  So bad, that I didn't sell a single copy of Unequal all year and only a tiny fraction of Project Hermes (like a page or two).

In case you weren't following along, I am in the process of removing all my books from the Kindle Unlimited program and taking them wide.  All my books are wide except for Fertile Ground (still in KU), Early Grave (waiting on FG to drop), and Project Hermes (also still in KU).  Everything should be out and wide by the end of the month.  

To try and coax more sales, Dying Embers and Wish in One Hand are now 99c for the duration.  This isn't a sale.  It's a price change.  I'll let you all know if I decide to put the prices back to $3.99.

Looking forward, I hope to have this Untitled Fantasy ready to publish by no later than the end of March.  There, I said it.  Now I have to stick to it.  I also hope to write at least one or two books this year and see those published as well.  As long as this year doesn't turn into Twenty-Twenty 2: Son of 2020, I should be able to reach those hopes.  (Hopes, not goals, people.  After 2020 kicked my ass, I was so over making goals, and then 2021 happened.  Blerg.)

How was 2021 for you?  Did you reach your goals?  Did you even bother to set them after the year before?  What are you hoping for this year?