Great news! The pathologist’s report came back and it turns out that the mass I had removed was a benign thymus cyst, so all is good. My chest is still sore if I do too much bending over and reaching for things in awkward places, but otherwise recovery goes well. I have one more chest x-ray to do on Friday and a follow-up consultation with the surgeon on Monday, and then that’s it, I hope!
My daughter and granddaughter Ellie were sick on Mother’s Day so we postponed our family BBQ until this past Sunday. My son, who works in the tech field, also happens to be a wonderful cook. He grilled the most amazing steak sandwiches which is a family favorite. Honestly, if he ever tires of a tech career, he should operate a food truck.
Unfortunately, my sister had to reschedule her surgery as she came down with Covid late last week. Both of her cats passed away this year, so 2023 has been a tough year so far. We do what we can to help her, and hope that things turn around once her surgery and radiation treatments are over.
On the promo front, I’m taking part in a great one that’s offering free ebooks in four different genres: science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, and romance. To take advantage of this newsletter signup offer, click on the link HERE.
I’m also offering my 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, for $.99 until June 19th. This book is definitely on the thriller side of things. I often incorporate real-life crime events from Vancouver, and this book about home invasions targeting seniors that occurred in Vancouver several years ago.
When a home invasion kills senior Elsie Englehart, security officer Casey Holland is devastated. She’s supposed to be watching over elderly bus riders in an area frequently targeted by thugs. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts a senior to his home, only to come under attack by an armed intruder. Hospitalized and angry, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues, and the postponement of her wedding. Yet another home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health and her relationships?
It’s natural to think that once we moved into our new home, the challenges would be over, but we’re not quite there yet. Moving into a new home is only phase one of the process. We left behind furniture to either sell or donate at the old house. We also have a lot of stuff to be picked up by the Got Junk folks. One family is keen to buy our Port Moody home and have removed three of four subjects, however, they must sell their home before they can purchase ours. It’s a domino effect and since I have no control over that I try not to fret about it.
We also have smaller things to take care of at the new house. Like buying a new kitchen faucet because the current one barely functions. We also have to figure out where to place the plants we brought with us, including my mom’s rose bush (it was given to me in memory of her passing four years ago). There are also paintings to hang, new furniture deliveries pending, and so forth.
As you’ll see from the photo, I’ve discovered that we have what I think is wisteria (correct me if I’m wrong) growing at the side of our house. Lavender and lilac plants also grow on the property. Since we looked at and purchased the house in November, it’s a nice surprise to see what else will be blooming now that the warm weather has arrived.
Additionally, and this is the personal thing I mentioned in last week’s blog, I had surgery on Thursday to remove a small mass in my chest, near my heart. The surgery went well and the pathologist’s report will be available in about three weeks. The surgeon doesn’t think the growth is cancerous, based on previous CT and PET scans and the MRI in February, but we’ll see. I was allowed to remove the bandages last night and finally take a shower, (this was laparoscopic surgery) but I can’t lift anything over 20 pounds for 6-8 weeks, which means I won’t be a helpful grandma over the coming weeks. Since I had a chest tube inserted after surgery, I had to stay overnight, but received good care at the hospital. I’m taking it easy now and planning to catch up on reading between the mandatory short walks and inevitable naps.
Unfortunately, my sister needs another surgery, as the surgeon apparently wasn’t able to remove all of the cancerous tissue during the April 13th surgery, so she goes back later this month. The good news is that the cancer didn’t spread to her lymph nodes, so chemotherapy won’t be necessary, just radiation. Later this year, my son-in-law is having shoulder surgery, so it seems this is a year for fixing things 😊
I had hoped to get back to work on more mystery writing this spring, but given everything that’s going on, it seems smarter to stick to one thing, which is fantasy writing and research these days. It’s my hope that life will be calmer once summer arrives and I can be more productive, but until then, we do what we can and what we must to be our best selves.
And belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! My daughter was sick yesterday, so we’ve postponed our celebration till next weekend.
We made it! The move, involving two big trucks, six movers, 50+ boxes, and oodles of packing tape, got us from Port Moody to Delta without mishap. I can’t say enough about the friendly, professional folks from You Move Me. The day before the move, three of them helped me finish packing my office and kitchen, which was immensely helpful as it required filling about 25+ boxes alone, never mind the ones I’d already packed.
We’ve been in our new home a week now and have put most of it together, except for the living and family rooms. My office is much brighter and a better layout than my old basement office, where my window looked into the garage. Now I have the morning light shining in and a window that opens onto fresh air and scenic trees.
The photo above was the view from my kitchen window about a week ago. I believe those gorgeous beauties are called camelias. The previous owners took great care with plants on the property. Aside from the crocuses we had earlier this spring, tulips are in full bloom out front. Oddly enough, we also have banana plants, which isn’t common in BC, however, this area of the Lower Mainland receives more sunshine than Port Moody. And we have these lovely bleeding hearts along the back wall of the house.
Ironically, I wasn’t able to see my daughter and granddaughters in over two weeks as they came down with Covid for the first time. Finally, everyone tested negative yesterday and are feeling one hundred percent better, so they came by for a short visit.
As you can imagine, I’ve not put in many hours with respect to writing. I did write for a half-hour to a full hour most days, just to take my mind off the many tasks associated with moving. To my shock, I’ve completed nearly 20,000 words of my second fantasy in a month. I’ll be doing a bit of online promotion later this month, but overall I’ll be taking it easy with all activities. I have one more big personal event coming up this month, which is a whole other blog topic I’ll share with you in a couple of weeks.
Moving day is three weeks away and preparations continue steadily. We’ve met with a plumber and an electrician to fix a few things, and even made time for furniture shopping. Shopping’s not my favorite activity but, as exhausting as it was, we accomplished a lot in the 3-1/2 hour, two-store adventure in decision making.
These past few weeks have been a balancing act between moving tasks, family needs, and writing-related tasks. We’re celebrating Easter at my daughter’s house this weekend, and I’ll help with the cooking and child-minding, which will be great fun.
We’re also spending time with my sister who was diagnosed with grade one breast cancer last month and will have her procedure on April 13th. From the hospital, we’ll be driving her to my daughter’s, so she can recover there. Having been through this before, albeit 29 years ago and under a more dire circumstance, she’s feeling positive. There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to put things into perspective, is there? To hold family close and keep doing the things you love.
For the sake of normalcy and to maintain a sense of calm, I’m still writing and promoting. Casey Holland mystery series, #4 The Deep End, is on sale for $.99 through BookFunnel’s Mayhem & Motives promotion. For mystery fans, this is a great opportunity to browse through over 160 mystery titles, which you can find HERE, or find on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or Barnes & Noble.
The Deep End is drawn from my volunteer experience inside a youth detention center years ago. I met all kinds of residents, some serving a sentence, others awaiting trial. The youngest was twelve years old, the oldest seventeen, and included a boy who’d stabbed his mother over 40 times. I also met two members of a family of criminals. The older brother was in adult prison, while the two younger siblings were at the center where I worked. The girl, a fourteen-year-old, was in detention for attempting to push an elderly woman off a cliff.
I’ve come to realize that all the years of book plotting and strategizing have helped me organize this move better than anticipated. Planning well ahead and list-making are second nature to me. Have you found your creative life assisting you with real-life challenges?
One of the good things about buying a house before you sell your current home is that you can take your time sorting, recycling, and packing. I’m pretty much done with the many items that were contained my big, old cedar chest. The school years, ballet years, college years, traveling years, working years, and family memorabilia have been sorted. The packing has begun and we’ve been moving boxes to the new place.
We’ve now met with the realtor and are listing our current home in three weeks. This means that we have to declutter every surface and have every room camera ready by the 14th of April. We’ve also contacted a moving company who’ll also help with packing, dismantling, and reassembling. Moving day is April 26th. So, I now have a deadline to work with, which is good. Thanks to years of writing and submitting work to editors and publishers, I work well with deadlines.
The area of the Lower Mainland that we’re moving to (a 50-minute drive away) has more sunshine than we do in Port Moody. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven from here on a cloudy, drizzly day only to find dry roads and the sun peeking out in South Delta. South Delta is flat and subject to much more wind than we have in hilly, Port Moody, which has mountains on its north side. As you’ll see in the photos, the weather and land in South Delta means that plants flourish. This photo was taken last week in our new front yard. Meanwhile, our Port Moody home still has a patch of snow on the ground.
Needless to say, I’m not writing much these days, which is fine. I finally sent the urban fantasy to beta readers a few days ago and am currently dabbling with another project. Writing is my happy place, and it’s how I like to start my day. I’m also taking part in one monthly BookFunnel discount promotion, and this month it’s $.99 #sale for my 3rd Casey Holland mystery, Beneath the Bleak New Moon.
So, these days, the routine is basically writing and writing-related tasks in the morning, packing in the afternoon, and relaxing in the evening. We drive out to the new place at least once a week and visit the grandkids. Things will look quite different in the latter half of April, but it’s exciting to think that by Mother’s Day we will be in our new place. We’ll probably still be living among lots of boxes, but at least I’ll be able to step out my front door, pull up a chair and admire the all the beautiful flowers coming our way.
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks since my last blog. Now that we have keys to our new house, we’re slowly moving items in and hiring contractors to update some of the plumbing and wiring. I’m happy that we have the time to take care of these things. The house we’re moving into is older and there are always issues.
Meanwhile, I finished sorting through my office and have now tackled the large cedar chest just outside my office. I’ve had it since my early twenties and don’t even remember where I purchased it. The chest was packed with childhood and college memorabilia and final print versions of my short stories, essays, articles, and novels. Since nearly all the pieces have been published and the published works are on my bookshelves and/or stored digitally, I’m recycling the paper.
Many years ago, my mother gave me a box of mementoes which I’d forgotten about over the years. Needless to say, I found myself surrounded by more nostalgic memories of the past including my eight years of ballet study. To my surprise, she’d kept the old programs from concerts I performed in, competitions I entered, including the adjudicator’s comments, as well as scores and assessments after each year’s examination.
The ballet years, which evolved into an intense, seven-day a week commitment, weren’t the happiest in my life. There was physical pain, lots of stress, strict instructors, and more than a few demoralizing moments, but the experience taught me three important lessons.
One is the importance of keeping fit through activity and exercise. Number two is that discipline and hard work do get results, and three is to face one’s fears. When you’re twelve years old and told to improvise a solo dance in front of an audience and judges, you just get on with it and try your best. Of course, I wasn’t alone in this ordeal. Each competitor had only two minutes to hear a piece of music before performing to it on stage. Misery does love company, as it happens.
All three lessons have served me well over the years, especially as a writer. I taught my kids those values and will do the same for my granddaughters. And I still move well to any type of music thrown at me, a skill I hope to use to great advantage when I reach my 80s.
The sorting and recycling part of our moving preparation is almost done. Next up is the meeting with our lawyer, then the realtor to get the keys to our new house. The next few days will be eventful, to say the least. But I need a short break from all that, so before I head out today to visit the grandkids, I’m sharing some excellent sites that I go to for advice and/or workshops on writing, publishing, and marketing. For my writing friends, hopefully, you’ll find these useful on your journey. Some of them I’ve mentioned before:
The Creative Academy. This is a great go to site for writers of all levels of experience and all genres, including nonfiction. They offer plenty of workshops (which they save so you can watch at any time) and groups to network with, among many other things. It’s a supportive, positive environment.
Funds For Writers. Mystery author Hope Clark is a dynamo who’s been offering writing tips, markets, grant info, and the names of agents and publishers for years. She also seeks and pays for articles about publishing and marketing. I’ve published with her in the past and she’s great to work with.
David Gaughran. I’ve mentioned him before and still find David’s free courses and marketing tips through his newsletter invaluable. He definitely has his pulse on what’s happening in the industry and is an expert on Facebook and BookBub ads. He digs deep into understanding what’s going on behind the scenes with companies like Facebook and Amazon.
Authors Publish. These folks provide a variety of markets that include everything from literary journals to theme-specific magazines, to publishers with good distribution and who don’t require an agent. They also provide helpful articles and free guides to preparing manuscripts and finding publishers.
Writing Corner. This newsletter is chalk full of markets in all sorts of categories and genres. It takes time to wade through all the info, but if you’re looking for agents, publishers, contests, and magazines to submit to, this is a great one-stop place. They also provide tons of other resources and tips for writers.
By the way, I’m doing a Freebooksy series promotion event today and reducing the price of most of my books. This morning, I already have 235 downloads of The Opposite of Dark, and it’s just after 8:00 a.m. It’ll be interesting to see how things will shape up by 8:00 p.m. tonight. The books are available on all the usual platforms.
I have a special bookcase in my office that contains four shelves and glass doors. It’s where I keep old editions of books purchased when I lived in England in 1979. I also keep signed copies of books from authors I’ve met over the years. Some I know fairly well. Others I meet briefly at mystery conferences ages ago and now don’t remember their faces.
This week, I decided to tackle that special collection. It’s been a perplexing challenge at times. I’ve found myself placing some of the books on the pile that won’t be moving with me. A few hours later, I put a handful back into the bookcase. There are books I didn’t think I’d part with a couple of days ago, but I’ve now changed my mind.
I’m looking at two criteria for discarding all of my books, signed or not. First, do these stories still resonate with me in some way and, second, is the print still readable for my aging eyes? Some of the older paperbacks have an incredibly small font size.
As you’ll see from the photo, I’m giving away my set of Crime and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia on Aberrant Behavior. The content isn’t extensive and was purchased about the time I enrolled in the criminology program at college. There are lots of gruesome photographs in it, though, including the Lizzie Borden crime scene, among others.
This bookcase contains books that will not be moving with me. The top shelf contains signed copies of mysteries/thrillers and half of the shelf below contain signed copies of other genres and nonfiction.
Among my unsigned collection, I’m keeping The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, Rebecca, Brideshead Revisited, three of Maya Angelou’s books, all of Sue Grafton’s, and P.D. James’ books, a short story collection by Raymond Carver, and several others. It’s comforting to know that I still have many great books on hand 😊
On the promotion front, I was thrilled to be interviewed by the wonderful mystery author and artist, Joanna Van Der Flugt. We caught up after sixteen months, and the theme of our talk was transition. Joanna also went through a major move last year and she too is a mystery author who’s delving into other genres. If you’re interested in this hour-long broadcast you can find it HERE.
It’s been a pleasure to host prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray in the past, and I’m thrilled that she’s back with the release of her latest novel, Natural Selection, which is book #3 in her Dawn of Humanity series. I’m currently reading the first in this trilogy, Born in a TreacherousTime and enjoying it immensely.
Here’s a quick summary of Natural Selection:
In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribe members captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.
Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack.
He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed.
To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.
He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river.
Or a cliff.
When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor.
Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.
He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.
Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.
Ragged-ear shook, dislodging the grit and twigs from his now-grungy fur. That done, he sniffed out White-streak’s odor, discovered she had also descended here. His injuries forced him to limp and blood dripping from his tattered ear obstructed his sight. He stumbled trying to leap over a crack and fell into the fissure. Fire shot through his shoulder, exploded up his neck and down his chest. Normally, that jump was easy. He clambered up its crumbling far wall, breaking several of his yellowed claws.
All of that he ignored because it didn’t matter to his goal.
Daylight came and went as he followed White-streak, out of a forest onto dry savannah that was nothing like his homeland.
Why did she go here?
He embraced the tenderness that pulsed throughout his usually-limber body. It kept him angry and that made him vicious. He picked his way across streams stepping carefully on smooth stones, their damp surfaces slippery from the recent heavy rain, ignoring whoever hammered with a sharp rock inside his head. His thinking was fuzzy, but he didn’t slow. Survival was more important than comfort, or rest.
Ragged-ear stopped abruptly, nose up, sniffing. What had alerted him? Chest pounding, breathing shallow, he studied the forest that blocked his path, seeking anything that shouldn’t be there.
But the throbbing in his head made him miss Megantereon.
Ragged-ear padded forward, slowly, toward the first tree, leaving only the lightest of trails, the voice of Mother in his head.
Yes, your fur color matches the dry stalks, but the grass sways when you move. That gives away your location so always pay attention.
His hackles stiffened and he snarled, out of instinct, not because he saw Megantereon. Its shadowy hiding place was too dark for Ragged-ear’s still-fuzzy thinking. The She-cat should have waited for Ragged-ear to come closer, but she was hungry, or eager, or some other reason, and sprang. Her distance gave the Canis time to back pedal, protecting his soft underbelly from her attack. Ragged-ear was expert at escaping, but his stomach spasmed and he lurched to a stop with a yowl of pain. Megantereon’s next leap would land her on Ragged-ear, but to the Canis’ surprise, the She-cat staggered to a stop, and then howled.
While she had been stalking Ragged-ear, a giant Snake had been stalking her. When she prepared her death leap, Snake dropped to her back and began to wrap itself around her chest. With massive coils the size of Megantereon’s leg, trying to squirm away did no good.
Ragged-ear tried to run, but his legs buckled. Megantereon didn’t care because she now fought a rival that always won. The She-cat’s wails grew softer and then silent. Ragged-ear tasted her death as he dragged himself into a hole at the base of an old tree, as far as possible from scavengers who would be drawn to the feast.
He awoke with Sun’s light, tried to stand, but his legs again folded. Ragged-ear remained in the hole, eyes closed, curled around himself to protect his vulnerable stomach, his tail tickling his nose, comforting.
He survived the Upright’s assault because they deemed him dead. He would not allow them to be right.
Sun came and went. Ragged-ear consumed anything he could find, even eggs, offal, and long-dead carcasses his pack normally avoided. His legs improved until he could chase rats, fat round ground birds, and moles, a welcome addition to his diet. Sometimes, he vomited what he ate and swallowed it again. The day came he once again set out after what remained of his pack, his pace more sluggish than prior to the attack, but quick enough for safety.
Ragged-ear picked up the female’s scent again and tracked her to another den. He slept there for the night and repeated his hunt the next day and the next. When he couldn’t find her trace, instinct drove him and memories of the dying howls of his pack, from the adults who trusted their Alpha Ragged-ear to protect them to the whelps who didn’t understand the presence of evil in their bright world.
Everywhere he traveled, when he crossed paths with an Upright, it was their final battle.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the nostalgic experience of tossing out old papers and magazine clippings on a variety of topics. Since then, I’ve started purging my writing-related files which has also been a nostalgic exercise. I found folders containing pamphlets and notes, and old itineraries from conferences going back to 1997. I found a folder containing news clippings about famous Canadian authors including Mordecai Richler, Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Carol Shields, and many others. I brought to the students of the Saturday morning writing workshops I facilitate.
I found five different folders containing story ideas, partially completed first drafts and the occasional completed draft. Some of the ideas I did use, others I’ve now discarded, and a few I kept because they still resonate with me. Thankfully, it’s all in one file now 😊 The purging will continue over the next couple of weeks, but I see an end in sight, thank goodness.
As mentioned last week, I’m resuming book promotions for 2023. The first is a BookFunnel $.99 sales promo for my second Casey Holland mystery, Deadly Accusations. This group promotion features over 140 discounted crime fiction titles to choose from, which you find HERE:
The second event is a newsletter signup promo, offering an even more varied selection of books including free mystery, humor and romances, which is available HERE:
Since many of you, including me, are still experiencing freezing winter temperatures, this is a perfect time to try new authors and curl up with some great ebooks.
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