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.

The Aging Writer

senior_woman_working_at_store[1]Those of you who’ve been following this blog a long time know that I’ve written nearly every day for most of my adult life. It’s been an enjoyable habit. Regardless of what I’ve been going through, I’ve managed to write at least a little in all types of different situations (even during the early stages of labor) and in all kinds of places…planes, trains, automobiles, hotel rooms, hospitals, ferries, hockey rinks, sports fields, poolside, and so on.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s inevitable that I sometimes wonder if I’ll retire. I’m in my early sixties now and this decade is proving to be an eventful time of change in my life, some of it amazingly good, and some of it not so much.

Recently, I was blown away by a Washington Post article about the growing number of seniors who are still working at 85+ years. Apparently, over 250,000 Americans in that age category are doing everything from driving trucks to working as crossing guards. As you’ll see in the article HERE, the top jobs for the 85+ crowd are ranching and farming. Who knew? Society is clearly changing its attitude about what aging really means and the options available to seniors.

Researchers attribute the growing number of 85+ workers to longer life expectancies, shrinking retirement plans, and the availability of less physically demanding work. Writers comprise just .04% of the aging work force, which I totally understand. It’s mentally exhausting work that doesn’t pay even minimum wage for most.

Although the article breaks down the types of work and demographics, it doesn’t explore how these older workers feel about their jobs. Are they working because they have to out of financial need or because they want to? If they want to, is it simply to keep busy, or because they intend to help family and/or charities?

In Sue Grafton’s first alphabet mystery, A is for Alibi (published in 1982), we’re introduced to a secondary character named Henry, who is in about eighty years old. Henry’s a retired commercial baker who now makes a living designing difficult crossword puzzles. I remember thinking, wow, what an interesting and unusual character. But it looks like there are a lot of real-life Henrys out there now, and I think the world is better for it.

#amblogging Need Inspiration? Watch the Olympics

2018 OlympicsI remember writing about my admiration for Olympic athletes in the past, and for me it applies even more today than it did back then. I’m not an athlete and never have been. I am an author who’s always been passionate about writing.

Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with rejection, obstacles, setbacks, and occasional outright disappointment in my work. I’ve also learned the importance of perseverance, commitment, and finding new ways to improve and keep on learning.

Sounds a lot like what Olympians experience, doesn’t it? It’s incredibly interesting and moving to hear about the things they went through just to earn a spot at the Olympics.

We all keep going because this is how we choose to live our lives and because it matters to us, win, lose, or draw. This is why I’m still writing, still working toward goals, and still taking on new challenges.

Of course, writing is far less punishing on the body. Nor do we have TV cameras showcasing our successes and failures to the world. Unfortunately, we don’t get a nice shiny medal if we actually publish a book, although wouldn’t that be cool?

Year-End Reflection

new-years-day-1886358_640[1]With 2018 soon arriving, it’s time to reflect on this year, and to consider what I learned and to focus on what still needs to be learned, finished or accomplished.

The three major goals I set for myself twelve months ago were achieved, but only due to hard work, patience, and perseverance. Two of the three goals involved book publishing. There were timing obstacles, which meant that the books were released only one month apart. Promotion ventures were kind of crazy and not as fully developed as I would have liked. I’ll try to account for timing glitches when I next publish a book!

For various reasons, I also had to update legal documentation, starting with a legal name change (a minor change the provincial government required). I won’t go into details, but it took many hours, more than a few bucks, and visits to the local police, a notary, and Service BC offices, twice! Lesson learned: make sure I always fill out government forms using my full name or it’ll come back to haunt me years later. I’m never changing my name again.

Smaller goals were achieved and our family has started a new one for 2018. We’re in the process of moving my mother into an assisted living environment, hopefully in the spring. This coming year will focus on her needs, although I’ll still be writing. Writing has always kept me grounded through difficult times and changes. I’m optimistic that everything will work out just fine.

Meanwhile, my husband and I are taking a trip in late February to Mexico—travel is a rare occurrence for us—to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. My son will also graduate from university, so I’m thinking that there are plenty of good things to look forward to.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a very happy 2018!

My Own November Challenge

I’ve often been tempted to participate in the amazing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers commit to writing 50,000 words from Nov 1 – Nov. 30. It appears to be a great way to start a novel, but November is absolutely the worst time of year for me to attempt it. You see, I have my own writing challenges every November, especially this one.

This fall I’m releasing two books (more about the second one next week), promoting both through extra blogs and social networking, plus selling print copies of my books at four different craft fairs.

All this is being done while maintaining the day job and starting Christmas preparations. To keep myself sane and happy, I also spend the first hour of every day writing. After all, it’s what I most love to do.

Keeping all these balls in the air can be difficult, yet I need to test myself, not just as a writer, but as a business person. I want to see what I’m capable of and to learn where I need to cut back. I’m in the thick of things now. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and I can’t say there’s a lot of peace of mind at this point, but I’ll be able to assess this a little more clearly at the end of this year. Meanwhile, I wish all those who are attempting Nanowrimo the best of luck!

Knock Knock, front cover

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls

Apple: http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv

Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock

#amblogging: A Disciplined Writer? Well, Kind Of…

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgThe most common thing said to me by writing colleagues is that I’m a disciplined writer. This always takes me by surprise a little because I don’t think of myself as disciplined, just a habitual writer. Someone who does a little bit of writing and editing seven days a week, whenever I can fit it in between the day job, the chores, and family demands. For the most part, it’s been that way since I started writing 35 years ago.

On a really good day—and those are rare—I’ll manage three hours of writing, but never at one sitting. I don’t get up especially early to write. Nor do I sit at the computer for hours on end. Even if I could, I’m not sure I would.

From 2010 to 2013 I had the opportunity to write full time. But even with regular writers’ group sessions, I felt that I was isolating myself too much. So I returned to a part-time day job. Now I have two part-time jobs (one has very few hours per month), and I just took on some volunteer work, again with only a couple of hours per month.

I tend to forget that not everyone can, or even wants to write every day, and that gathering the willpower to finish a novel is a struggle for many. For me, slow and steady gets the job done, eventually.

Sure, I sometimes wish I was a faster, more prolific writer, and more efficient at marketing. But as I grow older I also appreciate how important family is. My ambition isn’t as strong as it once was. Sure, I still have writing goals, plenty of them, and I’m still committed to working on them. Does that make me disciplined? I don’t know.

Often, I get tired, and sometimes I think about quitting writing, publishing, and marketing just to gain a little more relaxation time and peace of mind. This thinking often happens right after Christmas, after an extremely busy fall and holiday season. But I have those goals to complete. More importantly, writing still matters to me. So, I’ll maintain my habit until I realize that it doesn’t matter anymore…should that day ever come.

#amblogging: Imajin Book’s Summer Sizzles Ebook Sale, July 1 – 1 5!

Summer Sizzles sale-July 1 -15

My publisher, Imajin Books, is about to launch a terrific two-week sale on their ebooks from July 1st to July 15. My first Evan Dunstan mystery novella, DEAD MAN FLOATING, will be on sale for only $.99 (U.S.) through the following links:

http://www.imajinbooks.com/kindle-ebook-sale

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/573302, (use promo code HF32M)

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/l77ymg5

Amazon: myBook.to/DEADMANFLOATING

Imajin Dead Man Floating Qwickie
Evan Dunstan, Mystery #1

One wrong decision… 

Security guard Evan Dunstan didn’t expect to find a body floating in a campus stream. An empty vodka bottle nearby suggests that the highly despised George Krenn, head of the plumbing department, had drunkenly fallen in. Refusing to let the death of a vile man ruin his romantic plans, Evan decides to leave the body for the next shift to find.

One friend in trouble…

When it’s discovered that Krenn was murdered, Evan has a lot of explaining to do. So does his friend Sully, Krenn’s least favourite student. Evan uses his hacking skills and campus knowledge to keep them both out of jail, but the investigation forces him to question Sully’s innocence.

One mystery to solve…

Uncovering the truth proves to be more than challenging. It may cost Evan his job, his friendship, and his woman. Will Evan find the killer, or will the killer find him first?

 

 

#amblogging: Wicca: Where Everything Old Is New Again

I don’t have a strong religious background. My Sunday school education ended at age twelve. Neither my parents nor any of my grandparents went to church. Lately, though, I’ve become interested in reading about all types of religious beliefs.

In particular, I’ve been reading about Wicca, primarily because it’s at the core of an urban fantasy I’m writing. I also took an introductory course on the topic last year. That six-evening session was so interesting that it inspired further reading. Our instructor recommended books by Scott Cunningham, so I picked up a couple. Here’s a snippet of notes I made from his work:

. Wicca is a loosely organized pagan religion centering toward reverence for the creative forces of nature, usually symbolized by a Goddess and a God.

. Wiccan’s spiritual roots accepts magic. Wicca doesn’t solicit members because it doesn’t claim to be the one try way to deity. (I like that part.)

. Wicca is a joyous religion that stems from a kinship with nature. It is a merging with the goddesses and gods, the universal energies that created all in existence. It is a personal, positive celebration of life.

. Wicca arose from shamanic beginnings, which the author says was the first, original religion. (I know plenty of Christians who would disagree, but there you go, diversity of opinion, right?)

. The Wiccan rule of morality: do what you want, as long as you harm none. Also, do nothing that will harm yourself. Concern and love for the planet is at the heart of Wicca.

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Wicca has gained a lot of popularity over the last twenty years. You could say that it’s been making a slow but steady comeback. As hard as some people tried in earlier centuries, this earth-based religion never really died. If practitioners are true Wiccans, they use magic solely to make the world a better place, to heal and to help.

As with most fantasy novels, authors who write about witches are actually writing about Wiccans gone wrong. It’s where a writer’s imagination takes off, and why I love this genre as a reader and a writer.