Vacation’s Over, Now Back to Work

Vacations end all too soon, don’t they? We thoroughly enjoyed enough Puerto Vallarta sunshine (I used nearly a whole tube of sunscreen) and sleep (9 to 10 hours a night) to finally feel ready to face whatever this year brings.

Like pretty much everything in my life, I viewed this trip from a writer’s perspective. After all, most of us who love putting words on the page or screen, never stop thinking about writing even if at a subconscious level. We’re always coming up with new ideas and settings, mentally recording bits of dialogue or incidents, and I had plenty of time to do just that.

pool view, villa del mar, jan. 2019As you can imagine from this photo (the view’s from our balcony) I spent a fair bit of time observing people, sometimes from this patio or down by the poolside. Vacationers’ reading habits came as a bit of a surprise. Over half of the people reading by the poolside were holding paperback books. The majority of readers were 50 years and over. But many in the same age group, along with the younger generation, were also reading and/or scrolling through their phones. What surprised me most was the lack of Kindles and iPads there. I brought one paperback which I’d started reading before we left and then turned to my iPad for the rest of the trip.

patio view, villa del mar, jan. 2019This is the view of the other patio along the side of our corner suite. It was my quiet place to think and reflect and, yes do a little light editing for one hour a day. I also pondered writing goals and opportunities for the year. It might look idyllic but what you can’t see is the construction site just to the left, where workers were jackhammering and bulldozing to build a new hotel. Luckily, we weren’t in our room most of the day, and they didn’t work evenings or Sundays.

Lastly, and most importantly, this vacation was about family, creating new memories, jotting notes in my journal, and looking forward to the future. The shot below is of my husband and daughter, sharing a quiet moment. Actually, it’s quite momentous because my husband used to loathe the idea of putting his bare feet in the ocean, until this trip. He’s come a long way. Next time, he says he might actually try swimming in it. Baby steps, right?

elida and bark, playa de los muertos, jan. 2019So now I’m back to major edits, the day job, writing workshop facilitating, and more family stuff. Given that I’ve been on a leave of absence from the day job, it’s been a while since I’ve had a normal routine. But normal is okay. In fact, it’s just fine.

Advertisements

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!

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.

Switching This World With That One

thinking-writing[1]Many writers who celebrate Christmas probably find December the busiest, most stressful time of the year. I know I do. It’s not that I don’t love Christmas and spending time with friends and family. It’s all the work that leads up to it while trying to balance the day job, and family responsibilities with writing time.

It’s especially challenging for writers with younger kids and/or aging parents, who depend on us to do their Christmas shopping and wrapping, and for those of us who also step up bookselling opportunities.

This year, I find myself preparing for Christmas while editing my first fantasy novel. The novel focuses on Wicca, witches and the proverbial battle between good and evil. Divided into five sections, the one I’m working on takes place in York, England in 1953, a drastic contrast to my real life.

Having written nine mysteries set here in Vancouver and in current time, I’m used to editing in familiar surroundings that deal with real-life types of crime. So it’s a little strange to switch from craft fair bookselling, tree decorating and other chores to writing about spellcasting and run-a-muck serpents. It’s also rather fun.

Although I’m living in two different worlds these days, I usually manage to find myself fully engaged in both. With a lot of practice and not a lot of writing time, I’ve learned to switch gears fast. Within sixty seconds of sitting down and propping my fingertips over the keyboard, real-life tasks fall away and my fictional world takes over.

To be honest, I don’t want to live in a fictional world full time, especially one that deals with the death and destruction that comes from my imagination. From 2010 to 2013, I did write full time, and I’m grateful for those days because the extra time helped me finish projects. I have to admit, though, that I only wrote a couple more hours per day than I had while doing a day job. After writing full time for a year, I missed daily interaction with the real world, not to mention the steady income, and the challenge of writing efficiently while getting everything else done.

For me, it’s not about having more time to write, it’s about making the best use of the time I do have. It’s about quick switches and ensuring that one world doesn’t overwhelm the other, and somehow it works for me.

What Should I Tell Them?

img_2467[1].jpgA few weeks ago, I was contacted by a teacher at a local high school and asked if I would give a presentation to a group of students who love writing. I jumped at the opportunity because I strongly believe in encouraging young writers.

After the initial invitation, it turns out that I will now be giving four workshops for an entire day, which is evening more thrilling. As I prepare my notes, though, I find myself asking a key question. What should I tell them?

With over 35 years of writing and publishing experience, plenty of ups and downs, and a pretty good grasp of the challenges facing new writers, it would be far too easy to lapse into the disappointments and horror stories that many writers have endured. On the other hand, I don’t want to mislead the students into thinking that it’s all wonderful and profitable. Somehow, I’ve got to find the middle ground. The obvious strategy is to be candid and as positive as I can, but also realistic.

For the most part, I’ll be focusing on the nuts and bolts of writing and editing. Two groups will be spent discussing character development. The other two will concentrate on plotting, point of view, dialogue, themes, tense, and so forth.

At my request, I was sent a list of questions that the students have compiled, which includes getting published and making money, as well as dealing with writers’ block, making time to write, inspiration, and career choices. I hope I can give a well-rounded viewpoint in what is often a crazy frustrating business. But really, the day is all about writing and learning to express ourselves in the most meaningful way possible for each individual. Maybe I should lead with that.

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.

MIA: A Title For My Next Novel

leather-book-preview[1]I’m working on the sixth draft of my current Casey Holland mystery. The book’s coming along nicely, except that I haven’t yet found the right title. Titles used to come easily for me, but for some reason the more books I write, the harder it gets.

The sixth installment in the series has Casey’s employer, Mainland Public Transport, (Casey’s a female security officer) under siege by an arsonist. Two of the company’s bus drivers have also been attacked by an unknown assailant who’s been attacking others in the same area of Coquitlam BC. Meanwhile, local thugs hold a grudge after an ugly confrontation with Casey and a driver during a riot. This isn’t the book blurb,  just my thoughts about will eventually be a blurb.

One of the ongoing themes is anger, the way it permeates the workplace, the public, and one’s personal life. Another part has to deal with mental illness issues that drivers in real life face from the public nearly every day.

There’s a lot of action and drama, which should make finding a title easier, yes? I’ve been compiling a list of key words and trying mind mapping, but so far nothing’s working. The title, Under Siege, aptly describes the plot and subplot, but it’s been used in movies and books many times before. So, if anyone has some great tips on coming up with a title, please let me know!