Bookselling, Christmas Shopping, and Grandkids

I’m relieved to say that my bout with Covid lasted only ten days before I tested negative, and I was feeling much better before that. The only side effect is more fatigue than usual but that’s fine. I’m a big believer in napping.

Because weekends in November and December are busy with craft fair markets, which also requires some prep time, I’m not writing a lot these days. There’ll be plenty of time for that in January. Right now, I’m happy to spend the occasional Saturday and Sunday, chatting with craft fair customers and selling print books. I meet the most interesting people at the fairs and some incredibly talented vendors, which is where I do most of my Christmas shopping.

Happily, I’ve already started the shopping thanks to last weekend’s fair. I don’t like leaving things to the last minute, but I also prefer to really get going after Remembrance Day, which is almost upon us. We must never forget, particularly in these challenging times.

Best of all, I’ve been spending time with my grandkids, Abby and Ellie, this week and last, which adds a bright light in my life. Really, the smile of a three-month old baby is all one needs to feel better, so I’m sharing a photo . Maybe they’ll bring a smile for you.

Abby’s cheeks are much chubbier than her sister’s were. She smiles a lot and gurgles happily whenever some reads a book to her. She loves book and watching hockey on TV, too. She takes after her grandma!

Ellie loved being a pumpkin on Halloween and insisted on wearing her costume for at least two days after the event.

Writers and Illness

Last week, I tested positive for Covid and have been living a sequestered life and resting a lot. I picked it up from my husband before his symptoms appeared. The moment he started feeling unwell at work, he masked up, left work, and segregated himself from my son and me once he came home. He ate and slept in a separate room. Used a different bathroom, but it was already too late. My son, who put on his mask the moment his dad got home, tested positive a couple of days later, and my turn came the next day.

My symptoms were nothing more than a head cold, accompanied by a low-grade fever on day one and a headache. Low energy was the only persistent symptom, but I’m a hundred percent better and count myself lucky. As it happened, I’d had my fourth vaccine two weeks earlier, which could be why my symptoms were so mild.

Because I wasn’t bed-ridden and had no problem concentrating, I continued on with some of my writing tasks, as I usually do when mildly ill. Of course, the editing process was slower, but the psychological benefit of creativity was so good that I believe it helped me heal physically.

Balancing work and rest with illnesses and other disruptions is a reality that writers face all the time. It’s also something they frequently need to refine with age. It’s perfectly okay to slow down, as I’ve been doing, but at this time in my life, it’s not okay to throw in the towel and sit in front of a TV all day. In fact, I hope that never happens.

The real downside to illness is that I haven’t see my grandkids for a while and miss them terribly. But that will soon change! Stay safe and healthy, everyone. It’s going to be a bumpy winter.

Introducing Our Newest Family Member

As some of you know, my daughter had her second baby last week. Just as my virtual critique group got underway last Monday evening, my daughter texted to say that this could be the real deal, even though the baby wasn’t due for another week. I quickly packed the items I’d set aside and was on the road in less than ten minutes to make the 50-minute drive. Thankfully, rush hour had ended by that point.

In her grandfather’s lap

I arrived a little past eight p.m. They left for the hospital a little after midnight, and Abigail Claire was born 25-minutes later, at 8lb, 2 oz.

Abby and me. She’s a day and a half old

Mom and baby are doing fine. Because of the timing of delivery and protocols, they had to stay at the hospital two nights. When she brought Abby home, her big sister took a close look at her, then wandered off. For the first couple of days she was ambivalent, but she’s now taken more interest. When Ellie wakes up in the morning, she says, “let’s go see the baby”. Needless to say, I didn’t focus on writing and launch preparation at all for a little bit, but I’m back in the groove. With launch day’s only three weeks away, there’s still plenty to do. The photo below is of Ellie at her 2nd birthday party a couple of weeks ago.

Abby’s big sister, Ellie age 2

CWC Winners Announced and Planning for Summer

Last week, the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence winners were announced. It’s always exciting to see the short list of nominees in April and the announcement of winners in late May. I know a number of the nominees from the Vancouver area, including this year’s best crime novel winner, and am delighted to see their work recognized. You can find the full list of nominees and winners HERE.

As you all know, a lot’s gone on in the world since I last blogged a couple of weeks ago, and little of it’s good. It’s a tough time for creators on many levels, but I forge ahead because writing and editing have always given me a safe space to ease my mind from horrific news stories. So, I’ve been editing steadily, and working on a pre-release plan for my Casey Holland novella. I’ll launch the book on September 8th, which seems both far away and all too soon, depending on my state of mind.

I have a to-do list of pre-publication work to help me stay organized. I also want to take one more look at the novella before it’s ready for uploading on Amazon and other sites. It won’t be a quiet, slow-paced summer, but it will be an eventful one.

Ellie likes to sit on her bike & ring the bell

Ellie will have a little brother or sister in August. My son-in-law and hubby will be taking vacations to help out on the home front, but we won’t be traveling this summer, which is probably for the best this year, especially since gas is $2.22 a liter as I write this.

It’s a bit strange to plan my publishing schedule around a little person who isn’t here yet, but my writing life has always been planned around kids’ and employers’ schedules. Somehow it always works out.

How about you? What are your plans this summer? Will it be creative? Relaxing? Busy? Or slow and relaxed?

Mother’s Day Fun and Writing Updates

After three months of babysitting most weekdays, I’m on holiday this week. My S-I-L is taking the week off and guess what he’s doing? Toilet training Ellie. Yes, they’ve read up on the topic, seen a video, I think, and feel they’re ready. Let’s hope Ellie feels the same. 😊

At 21 months, she’s already using “no” a lot and having the occasional tantrum when things don’t go her way. I’m sure it’s been quite a week, but this is one of the great things about grandparenting. The responsibility isn’t mine, at least until next Monday.

As you can see from the photo, we enjoyed a happy Mother’s Day with my son doing most of the cooking. My daughter’s next baby is due in mid-August, just after Ellie turns two, so more fun is coming up, and more big changes.

On the writing front, work continues on the urban fantasy. After going through a long and invaluable critiquing process I’ll be reaching the end of that part of the process in a few more weeks. Perhaps then, I’ll look for beta readers in earnest, but it would be a huge commitment for them, so I’m thinking of what I should offer in return. A gift card perhaps? A quid pro quo arrangement?

I’ve also finalized decisions about the jacket design for the Casey mystery novella and am working on nailing down a September release date. There are also some archived online workshops I’m catching up on this week.

As you can see, I’m not slowing down on my holiday. But the weather’s been rainy and uncharacteristically cold in my neck of the woods, so why not catch up while things are good and I’m motivated?

My Odd Relationship with Instagram

Last month, the Alliance of Independent Authors posted a good article about how to boost your presence and ultimately book sales on Instagram. There was a lot of useful advice, which you can find HERE. The more I read, however, the more my head started to spin. Among the many suggestions were preparing reels, posting high-quality content regularly, creating a theme, hashtags, being creative in the captions, and much more. Of course, there was the issue of snapping quality photos, which is where I really run into a snag.

Although I enjoy viewing photos on Instagram, I’m not much of a photographer at all. In fact, I rarely think about taking pictures unless on holiday. When I go out for a walk, which isn’t often enough these days, it rarely occurs to me to snap a picture of anything, so you can see my conundrum. I’m just not sure what to photograph. I don’t have a pet right now and when I sit down for a meal, even a fancy scrumptious one, it never occurs to me to take a picture of it. I just can’t seem to get my brain around the idea of integrating photography into my life. On the other hand, I like the quick simplicity of Instagram.

While I like my life, I can’t say it’s overly exciting. I write. I babysit Ellie. I do chores, run errands, exercise a little, and read. I am going for a CT scan this week, which might count as exciting but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see a photo of that. I sure don’t.

I know some of you are on Instagram because we’re following one another, and if you’d like me to follow you, let me know and I’ll do my best. Right now, I’m just starting to develop the habit of checking in daily, but sometimes that doesn’t happen either. My question is, as writers, do you use Instagram? What is your best means of acquiring followers? Do you feel it’s helpful to find new readers or grow your brand?

Meanwhile, the BookFunnel promo I mentioned a couple weeks ago is midway through, so if you’re interested in a chance to win a $250 gift card or looking for other great mystery reads, please check it out HERE. My 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, will be on sale for $.99 until March 31.

Back to My Regular Routine

Pexels Image by Doug Brown

Happy Groundhog Day and Kung Hei Fat Choy (the Cantonese version, I’m told), or Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) to those who celebrate. The new year officially started yesterday, but celebrations go on for several days. It is now the year of the tiger, which symbolizes strength and courage, among other things.

Pexels Image by Angela Roma

Normally, we would be going out for a large family dinner, but in these Covid times, small family gatherings are safer, especially for eighteen-month-old Ellie. How is your 2022 going so far? Has it been productive and smooth-going, or a bumpy long haul?

Before Covid, my husband I were lucky enough to spend a few days in Mexico in January 2018 and January 2019. It was a welcome break, although we had no plans to go ever year. Good decision, too, as it turned out. But I do enjoy breaks in late January. By the third week of the month, most of us feel that winter’s become a grind we could live without. My husband, hardly a world traveler, has actually been checking the daily temperature in Puerto Vallarta, which I don’t think helps his longing for warmer weather.

I had a break from my usual routine this past week, as my daughter was on a week’s holiday, so babysitting services weren’t needed. I used the time to finish tasks that had been on hold for several weeks, and to catch up on rest and reading. This week, I’m back babysitting, amazed by the way Ellie’s language and motor skills are progressing, and how she’s now crawling up on the furniture and running at, what for her, is top speed. Yikes!

I’m grateful for the great feedback I received from my beta readers on the Casey novella. Of course, changes are needed, and I’m rethinking the title, but it shouldn’t take too long to make the changes.

Meanwhile, I’ve joined the largest BookFunnel group promotion yet, with over 80 authors offering samples, excerpts, or full books of suspense and thriller mysteries. You can find the link HERE.

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?