So Long, 2021

I imagine many people have good reason to see this year end, and for things to improve in 2022. I totally get it. Here in British Columbia we’ve suffered a grueling year. Mother nature provided harsh reminders that she’s hurting and we’d better smarten up to avoid more death and destruction. As I write this, Vancouver was -12 degrees Celsius overnight. In our area, this is rare but not as unsettling as the forest fires and heat dome last the summer, and the major flooding that wiped out entire farms and killed many animals in the fall.

Worldwide, there were immense challenges, much of which saddens and angers me, especially at the horrible way people treat one another and the planet. But I also saw plenty of grassroots heroes showcased on TV, helping friends, neighbors, and community through crises. There are still many good things happening. There is still hope. It also makes me really appreciate the blessings our family enjoyed this holiday season.

Although we had snowy conditions for part of the hour+ drive to our daughter’s home, Christmas was delightful. Ellie wasn’t quite sure what was going on with all the gifts, but she certainly took to her new Elmo and other toys.

Despite the weather and ominous COVID challenges, I took some positives from this year. I worked diligently on editing the urban fantasy and made good progress, thanks to my wonderful critique group. I’m finally going back to finalizing the Casey Holland mystery novella for beta readers, which I’ll be seeking over the coming weeks.

I also returned to craft fairs and facilitating this fall, and enjoyed our first family vacation with Ellie. When it comes down to it, for me it’s all about family and doing things that fulfill me. My first full year of retirement has been busy and rewarding, but as always, I can’t wait to ring in the year new and see what the next chapter brings. Happy New Year to All!

Pixabay image by Gerd Altmann

Holiday Prep and Blessings

Somehow, I managed to get all ready for Christmas five days early. Mind you, it took some planning and help from my son and hubby who shared cooking and housework duties while I did my thing. But the big day’s almost here and I’m so happy to be celebrating Christmas with little Ellie this year.

This time last year, our province was in a major lock down that prevented families from getting together. Ellie was four months old, so I figured she wouldn’t miss us, but this year she’s an energetic, curious sixteen months, who loves Christmas lights and purple bows. She also gets excited when her grandparents, uncle and great aunt walk arrive together. I’ll share a couple of photos next week.

Year-end thoughts will also be in next week’s blog, but right now I’m focused on family and gratitude for the blessings I’ve been able to enjoy. I never stop appreciating how lucky we are to live in this part of the world, and that our family’s staying healthy. I wish the same for you and yours.

Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

A Whirlwind of December Activities

Autumn 2020 was a fairly mundane, stay-at-home affair, as public health orders in our province forced everyone to avoid social gatherings by early November. The creative workshops I and colleagues had been facilitating were shut down, along with Christmas craft fairs and other public festivities. So were in-person gatherings on Christmas Day.

This fall is more normal, which means the past two weeks have been busy! I participated in two Christmas craft fairs (one 2-1/2 days long), facilitated 9 out of 11 creative writing workshops, babysat my granddaughter three days a week, and prepared for Christmas. The craft fairs were conducted with face masks, lots of hand sanitizing, and social distancing, when possible.

It’s a bit of relief to be slowing down this week. The creative writing sessions ended on Saturday, I’m not participating in anymore craft fairs, and I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, none of it online. Whew! It feels like I’ve gone from 0 to 60 since last year, but it’s been worth the effort. I can’t wait to celebrate Christmas with little Ellie and read her the new books I bought. I still have wrapping to do and shortbread to make, but I’ve slotted time for that.

Not my shortbread, just a baking reminder from Pixabay

Needless to say, I’ve haven’t written or edited much lately, and two out of three projects have been completely shelved this past month. I’ll make more time for writing after Christmas. The last week of the year is always a creative time for me, and a time for reflection.

How about you? Are you operating at a faster pace than last year? Was it easy to get back into it?

Horrific Weather and Writing Events Reminder

Once again, here in British Columbia we’ve been hit with devastating weather events, only instead of forest fires and extraordinary heat, it’s an atmospheric river resulting in massive flooding. I’m safe and dry where I am, as are most of my friends and colleagues in the interior. A few, however, live in danger zones, and I’m hoping they’re safe.

Sadly, there’ve been deaths from the mudslides that literally swept vehicles off the road. I can’t begin to describe the amount of property damage and lost livestock this week. The entire city of Merritt was evacuated and extensive damage has occurred in Princeton, Abbotsford, and other areas as well. As of Wednesday, our province is in a state of emergency, and travelling out of Metro Vancouver east isn’t happening right now. Gas is running low in some communities, and food shelves are emptying as the trucks can’t get through.

Like last year, although for different reasons, we’re advised not to travel, which suits me fine. I’m on a week’s holiday from babysitting, so I’ve been catching up on editing projects and other things. We’ll see what happens next week.

Meanwhile just a reminder that our Authors in Conversation talk is today, Nov. 18 at 7:00 pm PST. Our topic is strong female lead characters. You can watch it live on the 18th HERE.

Also, the BookFunnel ebook freebies is still going strong, offering free crime fiction, many of them cozies, until Dec. 13. You can find the link HERE

Meanwhile, I hope you are all safe in your respective areas. I know that communities just below the U.S. border are also struggling, and I fear there is more to come.

The I-Think-I-Can Approach

Planted in April 2021

A story starts with an idea, like a flower starts with a seed. It’s planted. It germinates.

As with a book or the sunflower that just bloomed in my garden four days ago, it can take a while. Weeks. Months. Even years. The process is often unpredictable.

But one day, something starts to happen. Something fresh pokes through the many thoughts, or the dirt in the ground, and you’ve begun.

The journey isn’t easy. There are periods when nothing seems to be happening. This is because you can’t truly see what’s percolating in your subconscious, or what’s going on underground. Self-doubt creeps in. Maybe unintentional neglect. Or impatient waiting for some sign of progress.

Through the period of early growth, there are setbacks and obstacles. Illness, emergencies, accidents, or natural intervention. For my sunflower it was a summer of heat domes, toxic smoky air, and water from a hose rather rather than thirst-quenching rain.

Time passes. Obstacles fade. Dry toxicity turns into breathable air. Thoughts begin to gel. The story is making sense now, and then it really takes off. One day you look up and the stem is strong and two feet tall. A bud appears. The logical sequence to an approaching climax.

Finally, one day, you spot a vibrant little flower peering down at you, and you realize it’s survived a pretty long journey. Sure, the surrounding vines and tree are stronger and larger, but my sunflower stands just as proud, basking in the light of day.

May everything you create and grow, flourish.

It’s World Rhino Day!

Pexels Image by Alesia Kozi

When I wrote about World Elephant Day a few weeks ago, I also wondered when world Rhino Day would appear. My blogging friend, Jane Fritz, who writes incredibly interesting blogs, by the way, kindly looked it up for me. Thank you, Jane!

So, September 22nd is World Rhino Day! These large animals are among my favorites. Until this week, I didn’t realize there are five species. The white, black, Sumatran, Greater One Horned, and the Javan rhino.

You’ve likely already heard that they’re often killed for their horns, which are supposed to have curative properties, but they actually don’t. Also, the loss of income due to COVID-19 has led to more poaching and killing of these magnificent animals.

To learn more about the species and what you can do to help protect them, please check out the link HERE. You’ll also find a rhino-themed soundtrack of 35 songs on the World Rhino Day website, for your listening pleasure. Who knew?

Pexels Image by Mike van Schoonderwalt

World Elephant Day

My babysitting duties are in full swing, which has been great fun so far. Ellie’s started dancing to songs in one of her musical books. Thursday to Sundays are my days off, which also means catching up editing, blogs, book reviews, and other things, so these week’s blog is a short.

My World Wildlife Fund calendar reminded me that today is World Elephant Day, so I thought I’d share a link for further information on how to protect these beautiful creatures before it’s too late. You can find it HERE.

World Elephant Day began in 2012 and is acknowledged every August 12th. All elephant species are in danger, and given the state of the world these days, I’m going to focus more on how I can help the environment. Donating and writing about are just two of those things.

My New Normal Begins

She Loves Her Balloon!

This week, I’ve started my new role as part-time caregiver for my granddaughter, Ellie, who’s just turned one. Because the commute’s too long to do daily, I’m staying out at my daughter and son-in-law’s place for half the week. I have to say, I’m getting a good workout by keeping up with Ellie as she crawls and pulls herself up on things constantly.

It also means reduced writing time and fewer blogs, but this is my choice. While it’s been a privilege to spend my first year of retirement writing full time, I’ve also reached a point in my life where doing so isn’t necessary. Honestly, there’s been many periods where it’s not been a priority. I’ve been lucky to enjoy part-time work, for the most part, and always found it easier to focus on writing when time was compressed.

I’ve spent the last four decades carving out bits of writing time on buses, during work lunch breaks, on holidays and long weekends, sitting in cars waiting for the kids to get out of school, at pool sides, skating rinks, Tae Kwon Do studios, and so forth. I’ve been lucky enough to work with agents, editors, publishers, and to self-publish.

I never planned to depend on fiction-writing to earn a living. I’ve never had a goal of reaching anyone’s bestseller list or acquiring a large advance with a major publisher. As a creative person who grew up poor, I’m quite fond of multiple income streams, even if they aren’t large. Besides, many of my story ideas always came from getting out in the world and working, whether paid or unpaid.

Sure, goals and circumstances will likely change again. These days, I’m content to write part-time. I’ll still be producing pages for my critique group every week and taking part in various events, and that’s just fine right now.

Speaking of events, I took part in a fun discussion about amateur sleuth fiction with two other British Columbia mystery writers, Winona Kent and Judee Fong, on Tuesday, which was moderated by cozy mystery author, Erik D’Souza. The recording’s still available, which you can find HERE.

If you’re interested in learning more about Crime Writers of Canada and Canadian writers, please check out the following links.

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Taking a Break

Pexels photo by Vlada Karpovich

Summer’s well underway here in the Vancouver area with temperatures soaring as high as 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this week. As near as I recall, Vancouver hasn’t experienced this in the 60+ years I’ve lived in the west coast.

I have a basement office, which helps, as does the fan by my feet. The oven stays off these days, which is fine because I have a few slow cooker recipes that’ll get us through. I can edit in the morning, but by two in the afternoon, I started to wilt, although that’s fairly normal for me, anyway. Temperatures are easing slowly, thank goodness, as the city’s experienced a high number of heat-related deaths.

Meanwhile, my hubby and son are starting a two-week vacation tomorrow, so we’re taking time off to spend with family. I had my second vaccine on Sunday, a Moderna this time; the first was Pfizer. There were fewer side effects the second time around, which is good news. There’s nothing like having a mild fever during a major heat wave. I’m looking forward to visiting with friends again and entering a store without a mask, which will be optional (depending on the situation) as of July 1st in our province.

I’ll check my emails, but basically, I just want to take it easy, enjoy some downtime, and read books. What I’ve learned from vacations is that when your mind is relaxed and the to-do list is empty, story ideas tend to pop up, so I’ll keep a notebook nearby. Earlier this year, I began compiling notes for a new series I’m really excited about, but I haven’t opened the file folder in over three months. Perhaps, it’s time. We’ll see.

I’ll be back at it in a couple of weeks, revved up and ready to go!

When You Have Flowers…

When you have flowers, life feels better. At least it does for me, and this month I’ve been blessed with plenty of gorgeous blooms. Here’s some of the colorful displays that have made me happy this May. First up is the tiny rose plant my daughter and granddaughter presented me for Mother’s Day. It’s been repotted and more blooms have appeared since I took this photo.

Next is the bouquet that hubby bought for our 33rd wedding anniversary. We spent part of the day gardening together and reminiscing about the day we got married in our backyard, which looked much different back then than it does now. We now have a veggie garden, new patio, walkway, and retaining walls all to replace the rotting wooden ones.

In our front yard, we have the most gorgeous orange azaleas. At least I’m told they’re azaleas. They came with the house when we bought it in 1987. I’m no expert. Anyhow, this is their best year ever.

Our red rhododendrons are coming out.

As are the white azaleas.

This year, we’re making greater effort to grow wildflowers in our backyard to attract bees and hummingbirds. I’m excited to see what the seeds will produce. In these COVID times, gardening stores are one of the few businesses that have been busier than ever, for good reason. Growing your own flowers and food is a handy skill to have.

Many writers are also gardeners, and I understand why. The physical labor provides reprieve from sitting at a computer for too long. It also allows your mind to relax and work on those plotting problems. For me, walking, sitting by the water, or even housework, allows the creative part of my brain to work. I wouldn’t be surprised if many story ideas are nourished in your gardens, too. How many of you keep gardens and does it help you with your writing?