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.

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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!

Reading Goals This Year and Next

girl[1]Back in August, I blogged about my favorite reads so far this year. I had read 27 books at that point, but still had 23 to go to reach my reading goal of 50 books in 2018. By the time November rolled around, I was seriously behind in achieving that goal.

One book a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but with day jobs, family responsibilities, and daunting writing goals, it became more difficult as the year progressed.

Since I’ve been on a leave of absence from the day job, I’ve had more reading time. I also chose fiction that wasn’t 500 pages or more. Some of the nonfiction I read this year was pretty intense, and took a while to get through. So it’s not surprise that my favorite reads these past four months are all fiction:

. Force of Nature by Jane Harper

. Miami Requiem by J.B. Turner

. Judgment Road by Christine Feehan

. Trickster Draft by Eden Robinson

. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C.J. Archer

. Land of Hidden Fires by Kirk Kjeldsen

. The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett

. Bound by Kirsten Weiss

Goodreads tells me that I’ve reached 98% of my reading goal, and as I’m just finishing another book, I’ll make my target, then jump right into my first nonfiction of the year, which is Judi Dench’s biography, And Furthermore.

It’s going to another great year of fiction and nonfiction reading, and the goal will be the same. I’ll be back at the day job in a month, and more challenges will be coming this year. Still, I can’t wait to discover new authors and different worlds.

A Happy New Year of reading to everyone!

 

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.

Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.