New Ideas, More Time, So Why Not?

I know that many writers have registered for November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and are diligently working on their stories, pushing themselves to achieve their 50,000 word goal by the end of the month. I’m always so impressed with those who take on this challenge.

I’ve never registered for this annual event, not only because of my day job but because I usually spend every weekend in November selling my books at Christmas craft fairs. But I’m retired now and this year the craft fairs have either been cancelled or moved online. I should have registered for NaNoWriMo but online courses and reading print books on writing and marketing have swallowed up most of my afternoons. I’ll be finishing up the last book in a few days and have nearly reached the point where I’ll be putting the focus back on writing new work.

I’m really excited about this. I’ve been making notes on two different projects since early summer and it’s time to get going. So, I might well be starting my own version of NaNoWriMo in early December and going straight through till the end of January or longer before I turn the focus back to marketing. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what happens, but it feels like a good way to spend these gloomy winter days where socializing is discouraged.

I still intend to take at least one day off a week to visit my granddaughter who’s about a 45-minute drive away, and sure, there’ll be a Christmas tree to put up and gifts to wrap, but all of this gives me something to look forward to these last few weeks of 2020.

How about you? Are you planning any creative, productive, feel-good activities for the rest of the year? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo and, if so, how’s it going for you?

Meeting Up In A COVID World

Here in Vancouver and the suburbs, community and recreation centers have been opening in stages since early September. This is a good thing for many but as our COVID case numbers steadily rise, I’m not sure how long it will last.

As part of the re-opening process, my local community center decided to resume in-person creative writing workshops. Our community is one of the few that offered weekly classes, and they’ve been so popular over the last 30+ years that participants could sign up for either Thursday morning, Monday evening, or Saturday sessions. And then COVID came.

Currently, our community center’s offering only one five-week session on Thursday mornings, which I’m facilitating. It’s therefore my obligation to ask my six participants if they’ve travelled, feel unwell, or if they’ve knowingly been exposed to anyone with COVID. Before entering the meeting room, we are all required to wash our hands in the washroom just inside the building’s entrance.

We have four long tables. I sit at one while participants sit at either end of the other tables. As customary in these sessions, participants voluntarily read a few pages of their work aloud while we read along from a printed version. Participants hand out and collect their own copies.

So far, we’ve met just once but the system worked well. The question is will we be able to keep it up for the remaining four sessions? If the number of COVID cases rise exponentially, the community centers will be shut down.

The thing is that those who attend these workshops (over half are seniors) do so as much for the social interaction as they do for the critique. Not everyone likes screens. Not everyone works productively when they feel isolated. Introverted as many of us are, we still need to feel part of a community and nothing demonstrates this better than in-person meetups.

Meanwhile, many larger writing events are still being conducted online in our area. I’m not sure how well attended they are and I don’t know if authors are selling any books. I hope they are but something tells me we’re in for a few more rough months. I also know that things will get better and that the best I can do is to keep writing and reading and leaning and improving. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll have a new Casey Holland mystery ready for release and can actually hold an in-person launch. Won’t we all be ready for a party by then?

Getting Involved

A few weeks ago, when I began planning tasks and events for the remainder of 2020, I assumed this would be a slower fall than usual. After all, I retired from my Mon-Fri day job and many of the in-person events I take part in are either cancelled or going online.

So, what to do? Well, the answers came quickly. First, I was invited to do some volunteer work for Crime Writers of Canada (I accepted this short gig which ends in Oct.). Second, I learned that my casual job, which is to facilitate creative writing workshops for my local recreation center, is starting up again for five weeks, and possibly longer if these in-person sessions go well.

Third, I’ve started an online writing critique group comprised of experienced, committed writers. I’ve known all of them for years and am thrilled that I’ll be receiving weekly feedback from this diverse and terrific group of people.

Finally, I’ve joined a highly interactive online organization that offers all kinds of mini courses, support, and resources, called Creative Academy. I hope to connect with authors, readers and gain assistance in areas I need help with.

While I’ve had a productive, self-isolating six months working on my current urban fantasy (over 280 pages edited these past three months), it’s time to reach out and connect with the writing community in new ways.

Getting involved whether through critique groups, courses, or volunteering seems like a great way to stay positive and look forward to whatever the rest of this year brings.

Ellie and me, Aug. 25. I swear she was smiling 🙂

Planning the Rest of the Year

My biggest 2020 events have now passed…The publication of my 6th Casey Holland mystery, retirement from the day job, and the birth of my first grandchild. As far as I know, nothing major’s coming along over the next four and a half months, which means this is a good time to start making plans for the rest of the year and into 2021.

The problem with this idea is that our COVID world is only a few months old and not likely to disappear soon. Uncertainties are everywhere and planning is trickier than usual. Under normal circumstances, my fall craft fairs would be booked and paid for by now. These days, such events are up in the air. One of the fairs is planning to host their event online and it will be interesting to see how that goes. One was cancelled and I’m still waiting to hear on another.

As far as my casual job goes, which is to facilitate Port Moody Recreation’s creative writing workshops, the rec center is still trying to figure out how to make it work. Registration normally starts in July, so I and my three co-facilitators usually know what our schedules will be by now but we don’t.

So, I’m going to focus on what I can arrange, which mainly involves more writing and promotion work. As mentioned in last week’s blog, I have idea for a new series that requires a great deal of thought and note making before I write the first word. And there are always household projects waiting for attention.

At some point, the cold rainy weather will set in and the yardwork will stop and I’ll switch to indoor sorting. I have bins filled with the kids’ old schoolwork that needs to be sorted and some of it recycled. I’ve also started collecting new recipes which will be fun to try.

On some levels, I’m also preparing for a COVID relapse in case things go south in our area. In late May, we bought a freezer for the first time in my life. It’s not huge but should I or the people I live with get sick, we want to be able to feed ourselves or provide food and meals for family members, should they became ill. I’ve also stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, which are plentiful in the stores these days.

I’m thinking about starting Christmas shopping early. My mother used to have her shopping done by the end of August and wrapped by the end of September, but that was before the dementia took hold. I used to think she was nuts to do everything so early, but retirement and COVID is changing my perspective.

I’d prefer not to shop online, so maybe I’ll start while the weather’s good and everyone else is outside. Needless to say, there’s lots to plan for. Who knows what the next four and half months will bring, but I’m going to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

What are you all doing to plan for the fall, personally or professionally? Do you find it difficult to make plans right now, or are you looking ahead as well? Meanwhile, here’s the latest baby Ellie photo. I’m blown away by the changes in just a few days.

Baby Ellie, 8 days old.

Guest Appearing on J.P. McLean’s blog

I’m delighted to appear on J.P. McLean’s blog today. The topic is Writing Before and After the Pandemic, which turned out to be a more complex issue than I envisioned.

As I considered ramifications for contemporary fiction writers, issues kept cropping up, so it seemed more straightforward to use The Blade Man as a reference point. You can find the piece HERE, and please have a look at J.P.’s wonderful urban fantasy novels. She’s another terrific British Columbia author. Thanks!

6th in Casey Holland mystery series.

Amazon: mybook.to/TheBladeMan

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-blade-man

Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1495092401

Five of My Favorite 2020 Reads So Far

I’ve read so many terrific books this year that choosing favorites has been tough. So far, I’ve finished 25 novels and am on track to meet my 50 book goal for 2020. Looking over my list, I haven’t read as much nonfiction as planned, but I’ll do something about that later on.

I like to read different genres, although I haven’t gotten to all of them yet. I also enjoy reading both established authors and new ones (or at least new to me), independently published, and traditionally published authors.

The Sinister Pig

Let’s start with the authors who are familiar to me, Tony Hillerman and Sue Grafton. I hadn’t read a Hillerman novel in some time, nor have I read them in order, but I picked up a copy of The Sinister Pig and loved it. Honestly, if you like mysteries and haven’t tried this author, to do. His protagonist Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police and retired lieutenant, Joe Leaphorn are great characters. He’s also a master at describing landscapes, and incorporating Navajo culture, beliefs, and myths into the plots.

Q is For Quarry

I’m working my way through the latter half of Grafton’s alphabet series, and my favorite so far is Q is For Quarry. She’s always inspired me, and I never tire of reading about Kinsey Millhone’s complex cases. Like Hillerman, she’s a master at plotting, pacing, and descriptions. I’m reading T is For Trespass now and fear reaching the last book she wrote before her passing. Maybe I’ll just go back and reread them all, who knows?

The Templar Legacy

Steve Berry was unknown to me, but I wouldn’t be surprise if some of you have already read this terrific author. The Templar Legacy is a contemporary story about an antiquarian bookseller living in Copenhagen and former U.S. agent who finds himself in the thick of danger when a former colleague appears. Her quest inadvertently involves the Knights Templar who were thought to have disbanded in the 1300’s. It was educational, suspenseful, and simply a great story with references to actual historical figures.

Saturn Run

My favorite science fiction read was Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. Sandford is another great mystery author with a long list of books under his belt, so I picked this one up to see how he tackles science fiction, and it did not disappoint. The book isn’t set that far in the future and features a race between the Americans and Chinese to reach Saturn, where alien life has been detected. Really enjoyed this one.

The Daemoniac

On the supernatural suspense front, I just finished reading The Daemoniac by Kat Ross and I just loved it. Don’t let the title put you off, as this is more of an entertaining historical mystery than a horror story. Set in 1988 in New York, the protagonist is goddaughter of Arthur Conan Doyle and she encounters real-life journalist Nellie Bly. It’s very well done.

I could go on, but it would mean adding another 20 more books and this blog’s long enough today as it is. Happy reading!

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The Indie Showcase presents, Debra Purdy Kong

self-publishing[1]I’m pleased to appear on Richard Dee’s blog today, where I discuss marketing and promoting in a COVID-19 world.

 

via The Indie Showcase presents, Debra Purdy Kong

Reflecting On The End Of An Era

As some of you know, I’ve now reached the last week of my day job and will retire on Friday. In many ways it’s the end of an era. Although I was a stay-at-home mom in the 90’s, I returned to the work force when my youngest was seven and have worked different types of jobs over the years.

SFU_burnaby_campus,_1_sept_2007,_8[1]This last stint was at Simon Fraser University. Oddly, it was also one of my first jobs. When I was just twenty years old in the mid-70’s, I landed a job in SFU’s Registrar’s Department. I didn’t like my supervisor, so I eagerly took a job in the Computing Science Department, working as a secretary for the department chair. The man had a formidable reputation as being difficult to work with and the position had been vacant for some time. He turned out to be one of the best and most interesting bosses I’ve ever worked for. He was one of those conducting research to establish a definite correlation between cancer rates and asbestos workers, and all we know how that turned out.

My husband graduated from SFU. Although we were both on campus at the same time, we never met until years later where we both wound up employed for the same company. My son and daughter have also graduated from the university, and it was my great pleasure to see them receive their diplomas.

I returned to SFU in the fall of 2013, where my sister also worked. In fact, I got her started in the Registrar’s office way back then, but she stayed and I left to return to school full time. For a year, we were both up there again until she retired in the fall of 2014.

My first job back on campus was a year-long- temporary assignment in the Biology department. When that ended I was offered another year-long position in the same department, and from there I moved to continuous, part-time employment in Linguistics. Continuous employment meant that the university would subsidize my son’s university education. I worked 60% of a full-time week, and the university paid for 60% of his education. It was a great deal.

My son graduated two years ago with a degree in chemical/physics (minoring in computing science),  and I stayed on, partly because he wasn’t sure what, if any, job he’d find and I had visions of him going to grad school. But that didn’t happen. He wound up with a great job.

I have to admit that working 40-50 hour weeks at my writing and day job for the past seven years has worn me out. Compounding things was my mom’s dementia and cancer in 2018 and 2019. It’s been almost a year since she passed away.

Work-2My daughter’s in the last trimester of her pregnancy, and I feel that now is the right time to leave. An important new chapter in my life is about to begin and this grandma doesn’t want to miss a thing. Of course, I’ll still keep writing and publishing, though I might slow down a bit. Or not. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, thank you Linguistics. I’ll miss you.

 

Writing About The Pandemic, Or Not

We’re all so immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic that it seems nearly impossible to get through an entire day without hearing something from TV, radio, and social media. And maybe that’s as it should be. I’ve always felt that staying informed is crucial, despite the contradictory statements and misinformation.

0304_n13_covid_19_coronavirus_graphic_generic_file[1]I’ve been reading blogs from people around the world about their personal experiences. It adds a poignancy and depth to the medical stats and political statements we’re bombarded with. I appreciate the candidness of bloggers expressing their hopes and fears, or even when they simply discuss their altered routines.

But, here’s a question I came across from an author this weekend, and it’s made me stop and think. If you’re working on a novel set in 2020,  will you be making reference to the pandemic and, if so, how much reference? Will it become a major part of your plot or will you avoid it altogether? After all, there are certainly people out there who seem happy to pretend that the whole thing’s an overblown hoax, which opens up interesting psychological components in fictional characters.

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgShould you build a plot around the pandemic, or should you mention it in passing? If one of my Casey Holland transit mysteries was set in the spring of 2020, my characters would be working in quite a different way than normal. Bus drivers are not charging fares these days. Passengers must enter from the back and sit within social distancing guidelines. In other words, no full buses allowed. This kind of reality couldn’t be ignored in my work, as social distancing would have to play a role in everything my characters do, whether sharing information on Zoom or writing reports from home. Unless someone was breaking the rules, face-to-face confrontations wouldn’t be happening, yet they are a crucial aspect of mystery/thrillers.

Here’s another issue. If you want to set your book in the spring of 2020, how much detail is too much? How do you keep from slowing your story’s pace with too many unnecessary details? And do you risk losing readers who’ll be sick of hearing about the pandemic and don’t want to read one word about it?

Movies made about OJ Simpson’s murder trial and other real-life murders have never held any appeal for me, if I’ve already lived through those periods of time. I remember wishing the OJ trial would just end so we could all get on with our lives. The same is true for Richard Nixon’s impeachment in the early 70’s.

I’m curious to know if those of you who write contemporary fiction( mainstream or genre) plan to incorporate the pandemic in your work. What about those of you who are children’s authors? Is this a topic you’ll want to address down the road? What do you, as readers and writers, think is the best way to handle the pandemic in fiction?

Six Positives To Self-Isolating

This week is our first full week of self-isolation. My place of employment sent everyone home last Wednesday, my son’s company sent him home on Friday, and my husband voluntarily started working from home on Monday.

Right now, each of us starts our day at our usual time, but rather than head out the door, we go to our separate work areas. I and my husband have basement offices and my son has his computers set up in his room (he works for a cyber security company). So far, I’ve seen more positives than negatives to our new lifestyle, and here’s why:

  1. My husband is saving 2-2/12 hours per day of commuting, my son is saving 90 minutes, and I’m saving 40 minutes, which is good for the environment, our stress levels, and our wallets, even though gas is significantly cheaper these days.
  1. read-652384_960_720[1]Instead of reading from my iPad, I’m reading more paperbacks bought from my local new and used bookstore, who need and appreciate the support.
  1. I’m able to take care of more writing tasks and am eating better on my work break.
  1. I’ve found great new exercise workouts on Utube.Flowers for Mimo
  1. My husband and I are doing more yard work together, for the first time. He usually takes care of the garden and yard, while I’m out running errands, meeting my writers’ group, or going to the gym.
  1. I’m checking in with friends and colleagues more often on social media, making sure everyone’s okay.

And then there’s the silence. I live near a major thoroughfare and generally only notice the quiet at special times, like Christmas morning, during a snowfall, or when I can’t sleep at 3:00 a.m. It’s like this every day now, and I’m hearing far fewer police, fire, and ambulance sirens. It’s almost as if the world has grown calmer, although I’m well aware that there’s plenty of angst happening out there.

I also know that self-isolation is perhaps easier for me than others because I’m an introvert and a writer. On some levels, self-isolation has always been part of life. But I do understand how difficult it can be. When I was a stay-at home mom with young kids, without a car and living on a hilly street, and my husband was putting in ten hour days at work accompanied by a 3-hour commute, I desperately wanted to go out and do something, or run a much-needed errand. Transit was terrible back then and on chilly, rainy days it just wasn’t feasible.

Still, there are things I also miss right now, like chatting with my friend while working out and visiting my daughter (who’s in her 22nd week of pregnancy), and hosting families dinners. I miss all the book launches and other writing events that have been cancelled.

But we’ll get through this and will re-emerge, and be more appreciative of what we have than what we’ve lost. There’s plenty to look forward to in 2020, and every day is one step closer to getting back on track with a new awareness and valuable lessons learned from this experience.