A Mini-Break To Start 2019 Off Right!

To wind up this three-month break from the day job, tending to family needs and other obligations, I’m excited to be heading off to sunny, warm Puerto Vallarta tomorrow. We’ll be joining my daughter and future son-in-law for fun, relaxation, and site-seeing.

This is my second trip to this wonderful city, but the first time we get to share the experience with family. It could be our last Mexico trip for a while, but who knows?

mexico, 2018The photo is a glimpse of the resort where I’ll be staying. I’m bringing lots of sunscreen and books on my iPad, and yes, a little light editing for those early mornings with coffee in hand, when the days feel fresh, creative, and promising.

I’ll also bring my laptop, but don’t guarantee that I’ll actually look at it too often. Those two-for-one happy hours and all that sun tend to sap my energy as the day goes on.

I won’t be blogging until the last week of January, when I’ll catch up with all of the great bloggers I follow. Until then, adiós!

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New Year, New Start

Happy New Year 2019 To Reach Design New Year 2018Happy New Year! How’s your year going so far? Those who’ve followed my blog for a while know that I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do have ongoing writing goals and household projects that manage to get done, more or less.

I’m reluctant to project the completion of any writing projects in 2019, due to my mother’s serious health issues, but I am turning a new page and trying to focus on all the positive things coming up in 2019.

My daughter’s wedding in September will be one. A vacation in Mexico in a few days is another, and then there will be the completion of my daughter and son-in-law’s newly built house. Can’t wait for all of that!

I’ll write every day this year, as I have in previous years, and monitor my mom’s situation and that of my nineteen-and-a-half-year-old cat, who appears to be in his final year as well.

Needless to say, 2019 will be full of ups and downs and I’m mentally preparing as best I can. These past 2-1/2 months of day-job leave have been extremely helpful to tend to family needs and responsibilities. I have one month left before returning to the daily grind. We’ll see how it goes. No matter what, I’ll learn a lot this year, try to do what I can for others, and hopefully a year from now won’t have too many regrets.

I wish all of you a happy, peaceful, prosperous, and creative new year. We’ll do our best, right? What more can we ask of ourselves.

The Rising Popularity of Audio Books

grateful-54-audiobooks[1].jpgWhen I first began selling my novels at craft fairs five years ago, I was occasionally asked if they were available as ebooks, which they were, and still are. Most customers owned Kindles and a few had other e-readers. This year, however, the most frequent question is “Are your books available in audio?”

The answer is not yet, but it looks like I’ll need to do so soon. Based on what I’ve read and heard this year, other writers are saying the same thing. While audio books are rapidly rising in popularity, however, the majority of people I spoke with don’t actually buy them, but borrow audio books from the library. This is anecdotal information, of course. Still, it does appears that this is where my market is.

First, I need to research how to go about creating an audio version of my books. If any of you are aware of a good service, please let me know. I’m especially looking for Canadian options to avoid the high U.S. exchange rate.

Also, please note that I’ll be away this week from Wednesday to Friday, but will catch up on your comments and thoughts then. Thank you!

Why Reading Is More Important Than Ever

Readingabook[1]Whenever I sell my books at craft fairs, I know that only a small percentage of attendees read novels. People generally don’t come to craft fairs to buy books, and some even tell me that they don’t read period.

How folks spend their free time is of course up to them, but a growing number of studies show that non-readers are not only missing out on great entertainment, but losing out on an opportunity to improve their mental state.

I came across a blog about a study that showed the positive impact of reading to combat loneliness, mental health issues, and dementia among seniors. You can read the blog HERE, and another link will take you to the full report (it’s 50 pages long, so I didn’t read it all), but the bottom line is that reading matters a great deal to one’s overall brain health.

In Canada, we do a good job of encouraging young people to read. Almost every parent I know read to their kids when they were toddlers and during their elementary school years. Reading and books are a big part of school life, but what about the other end of the age spectrum? What happens when real-life demands take people away from reading, and they’ve long forgotten the joy of immersing oneself in a good story?

If you know of someone, of any age, who’s suffering through loneliness, memory loss, depression, or other mental health issues, give them a good book, or take them on a trip to the library, or maybe even read to them. It’s a simple way to improve the quality of one’s life and might just help revive the joy of letting one’s imagination escape into brand new worlds. The more readers there are, the better off the world is.

Assessing Goals, New and Old

keep-calm-and-set-new-goals-257x300[1]This year hasn’t gone by quickly for me, although it has been eventful. I had two main goals in 2018 and neither of them had to do with writing. One was to finally move my mother into assisted living (the decision involved many discussions and was both physically and emotionally draining). The other was to sell Mom’s condo (which required lots of repair). The first goal was achieved on July 29, the second on Nov.  2nd.

Rather than wait for the new year to begin, I’m starting to think about new goals. I’m a big believer in goal setting. It’s the difference between getting something done and plodding along, leaving heaps of half-finished novels in piles.

I do have a number of big, ongoing writing goals that started a few years back. A few of those goals have been met while others are still in the works. Each year I edge a little closer to the finish line.

I probably won’t meet my reading goal of fifty novels this year. I just finished number forty, but I’m not sure I can read ten more books over the next two months. I’d also planned to get the sixth Casey Holland Mystery, The Blade Man, ready for my editor, but I’m behind schedule there as well. I’m just finishing draft #7 and while the book’s much better than it was with draft #6, I need another read-through before handing it over.

There are other writing projects that are not as far along as I hoped, but as you can imagine, real life family issues took priority and will take priority again as my mother’s health slowly declines. So, do I continue to make writing goals? You bet. I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.

The thing about goals is that they can be adjusted, and time limits aren’t always necessary or helpful. The point is to have at least one that matters, so I’m going to be realistic, as I decide which writing and household projects to spend time on over the coming months. Before this year is over, I just might have new goals ready to go for 2019.

Favorite Reads So Far This Year

Readingabook[1]Back in January, I blogged about new reading goals for this year. The plan was to read a lot more nonfiction and I have, but many of the topics were so heavy and thought-provoking that I found myself needing a breather. So, I also chose fantasy and mystery novels.

Last week (Aug. 9) was Book Lovers Day, which I somehow missed, probably because it was a really busy work day. On the other hand, every day is book lover’s day for me.

By the way, here’s a bit if trivia I got from a newsletter I subscribe to. Those of you who are readers won’t be surprised that to learn that according to a study in Social Science & Medicine, book readers live two years longer on average than people who don’t read. Reading books boosts brain health and lowers stress hormones. Doesn’t surprise you, right?

Among the 27 books I’ve read so far this year, some of my favorite nonfiction is:

  • Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
  • I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin (Raoul Peck, Ed.)
  • No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula le Guin
  • The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage by David E. Hoffman
  • Feeding Frenzy: Land Grabs, Price Spikes & The World Food Crises by Paul McMahon

Some of my favorite fiction is:

  • Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin
  • Give Out Creek by J.G. Toews
  • To Sleep With Stones by WL Hawkin
  • Two Clever By Half by Will North
  • The Forgotten Girls by Alexa Steele

Eighteen of the books I’ve read are fiction, which suggests that the nonfiction choices are making a greater impact on me than fiction, which is probably an issue of content rather than the quality of writing. As a mystery writer, I’m a bit more critical of fiction than nonfiction.

I’m behind in my 50 book goal, but I’m working on picking up the pace. After all, there’s nothing better than sitting out on my deck, glass of wine in one hand, a good book in the other. So, what are your favorite reads so far this year?

Evan Dunstan is Back in A Toxic Craft!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00049]I’m thrilled to announce that Imajin Books will release my second Evan Dunstan “Qwickie” novella, A Toxic Craft, on December 6th!

For those who aren’t familiar with my novellas, Evan is a 22-year-old security guard at post-secondary campus. Evan’s ambition to join the RCMP inspires him to prove himself at solving campus crimes, as long it doesn’t interfere with his hot dates.

Evan’s latest adventure centers around his grandmother and her cronies as they host a seniors Christmas craft fair in STT’s gymnasium.

Here’s the blurb:

A crafty senior…

Evan Dunstan’s spunky grandmother is giving him major headaches. As organizer for the seniors’ Christmas craft fair, Gran faces warring vendors and acts of vandalism that threaten to ruin the event. When nasty knitter Cora Riddell is knocked unconscious and her water spiked with a hallucinogen, Gran begs Evan to find out who’s responsible before more harm is done—or someone dies.

A daunting task…

In charge of the fair’s security, Evan faces a challenge that grows more difficult by the hour. His boss expects him to find the culprit before police are called in and Southwest Trades & Technology’s reputation as a safe campus is destroyed.

A friend or foe?

A search for answers reveals the disturbing possibility that even friends and coworkers hope Evan will fail. Is the culprit closer to him than he thought? Whose startling secrets must be exposed to find the truth?

Pre-orders are available at:

Amazon: http://getbook.at/AToxicCraft

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/ycsvuaj5