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!

How I Spent My Break

If you’re looking for free mystery and suspense novels, I have one more BookFunnel promotion I’m taking part in this summer. This one ends on August 1st and there are nearly seventy authors participating. My Casey Holland mysteries, Deadly Accusations (#2) and Beneath the Bleak New Moon (#3) are also free, but only through BookFunnel’s newsletter campaign till Aug. 1. You can find the whole roster of books HERE.

I’m not sure that writers truly ever stop writing, even while on holiday, but I sort of managed it. I didn’t look at my urban fantasy for eight days, which became kind of difficult after four or five days. The thing is, when your mind is relaxed and all is quiet, ideas pop up.

This is how I found myself working on characters and an outline for the paranormal mystery I’ve mentioned in the past. It was great fun exploring ‘what-if’ concepts and creating characters. It was even more fun coming up with ideas for monsters. I’m trying to stay away from old familiars like vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, at least with this book. Creating monsters is a whole new challenge in my writing life, but I’ve read a couple of good books on the topic.

Speaking of reading, I read a terrific how-to book called Mastering Your Mystery by Cheryl Bradshaw. She goes through the basics of writing a crime novel, but takes it further in the second half of the book by offering helpful advice on marketing, publishing, and promotion. I especially liked that she went the extra mile to provide a list of awards and competitions to submit to, and a list of sites to help promote your work. Although I’ve read my share of how-to books, I always find that reading these books sparks ideas for current projects.

Last, but definitely not least, I spent a great deal of time with little Ellie, who’ll soon be one year old. Last week, she learned to crawl up a couple of steps and had her first ‘swim’ in the lake with her mom and dad. I’m always amazed by the astonishing changes during a child’s first year of life, and can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.

She’s hold a favorite new toy, a bowling pin.
She loves her food.

A Different Kind of Christmas

Well, it’s almost Christmas, and I hope you’re all doing as well as you possibly can. Christmas at our house will certainly be different this year. My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter will be celebrating with us via Zoom. My son, who lives with us, will hook up my laptop to our big screen TV so they’ll be as close to us as possible. If luck, we might be able to get my brother-in-law in Ottawa to Zoom in with us as well.

I’m still cooking a turkey and enjoying some wine, and gift unwrapping. I still feel excitement and joy by the holiday season and am heartened to see people doing so many generous things to make the holidays a little better for others.

Today, I’m sharing some photos that represent some of my December. First up are three of my favorite tree ornaments. The chandelier and First Nations design are gifts from my sister who usually brings me a new ornament every year. The pink flamingo was purchased from the gift shop at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, where we took my mom for her 75th birthday just over a decade ago. This will be our second Christmas without Mom, and I still miss her very much.

But we’re also overjoyed to spend our first Christmas with Ellie. This photo was taken on Dec. 10th, after she’d been to the doctor for her checkup and vaccines. She’s now 4-1/2 months old.

Ellie and me

It snowed in our area on the first official day of winter, which is kind of cool. When you’re retired and don’t have to drive to work every day, you appreciate snow a little more.

Taken two days ago. There’s little snow left.

To those who celebrate, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!! And happy holidays everyone!