I sat down the other day and wrote out a list of the stories I am working on, and the ones I would like to be working on within the next few years.
It’s quite the list.
First, there’s the next Whitney & Davies book, and the two I have loosely plotted to follow that one. (Both Yorkshire and Cornwall inspired a new W&D story, and I’m really looking forward to getting those written and revisiting both places in my imagination.)
Then there’s the unexpected sequel to From the Shadows, which might??? lead to a third book? I’m still not sure. Quite frankly, there wasn’t even supposed to be a sequel, so clearly I am not the one in charge of these stories, I just go where they direct.
I have plot outlines sketched in for a total of six novellas in the Pauline Gray series, and I would hope to be able to carry that series out even longer so long as the characters and stories don’t get stale–for readers as well as for myself.
You would think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? But no–I have ideas for a middle grade fantasy book, a young adult fantasy book, and a cozy mystery series. And this doesn’t even take into account the stories that pop into every author’s imagination and demand to be written!
I’m not complaining, not at all. It’s wonderful to have such a wealth of stories to play with, so many different worlds and characters to explore and share with readers. I am in no danger of getting bored for the next several years, that’s for certain.
So tell me: what sort of projects do you have teeming in your brain these days? What are some of your short-term and long-term creative goals? Whether it be gardening or knitting or sewing (oh, don’t get me started on my knitting and sewing projects!) or pottery or painting or baking or anything else creative at all! I’d love to get inspired by what’s inspiring you.
For a few years now, I’ve been stifled creatively. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to overcome it–perseverance with writing in hopes of pushing through the creative block; pursuing other creative outlets like knitting; getting more exercise; writing just for fun instead of publication; writing longhand with a fountain pen and a nice notebook instead of typing on the computer, etc.
Nothing has really helped.
Even the two books I published during this time–Glamours and Gunshots in the Whitney & Davies series, and Candles in the Dark as the start of a mystery novella series–felt forced, causing more stress than joy in the process of creating them (I had more fun researching Candles than writing it, which really isn’t how it’s supposed to go).
Moving to England was supposed to be a creative re-awakening for me. When we visited two years ago in March, I felt more alive than I had in ages. I was sure coming here to live would have the same effect, only more so. I was sure I would find my creative flow again.
Since arriving, I have toyed with the idea of taking a month-long break from writing. Maybe longer, maybe six months. Maybe a year? But then I would have the idea for another story, and I would think that maybe I just had been tired. I would start to write the story … and everything would collapse on itself again, like an overdone soufflé. The story that had seemed so vibrant in my head would get stuck somewhere between my imagination and my fingers, and only something lifeless would appear on paper (or computer screen).
So last week, I made up my mind, and realized that I need to state it publicly or else I’ll be tempted to go back on it at some point. Accountability is important!
2019 is my sabbatical year for writing. I’ll still be doing my weekly journal posts and monthly flash fictions for Patreon–and at some point I will write a short story for the higher-level patrons–but aside from that, I am Not Writing. Maia and Len, Pauline, all the other stories I’ve been working on behind the scenes … they will wait until 2020.
It’s a little scary to think about. It’s also exciting. Taking a break from writing gives me a chance to pursue other interests for a change. I can study some of the subjects that fascinate me but I never have time for. I can finally finish all the knitting projects I have in the works! I can devote a proper amount of time to learning French (and Italian, in preparation for when we get around to visiting Rome). I can work on figuring out whether I’m a soprano still or if my voice really has changed to alto, and if the latter, how to sing harmony.
More importantly, I can stop feeling so torn between responsibilities and calling, and can try living a more whole life.
I will post occasional updates here throughout the year to keep you all informed as to how it’s going. Wish me–not luck, but a good journey!
A long time ago–in 2013, which is about 200 years in book publishing reckoning–I published Magic Most Deadly, a fantasy-mystery set in England in the 1920s, described by one reader as “Dorothy L Sayers with magic” and another as “Agatha Christie meets Diana Wynne Jones.” It featured a reverse Tommy and Tuppence pair, where the woman was reliable and practical, ruthlessly logical and devastatingly honest, and the man was impulsive and intuitive, a dreamer and an incurable romantic. Together, they used magic and their own wits to solve the mystery, defeat more than one enemy, and forge a firm friendship.
It didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it did garner a small fandom, and I immediately set about writing the sequel.
And learned the truth of all the statements about second books being so much harder than first books.
It was so hard, in fact, that I finally abandoned it to work on a project-from-my-heart, the recently re-released From the Shadows. With that one finished, I went back to the next Whitney & Davies book.
And promptly hit a wall again. And again.
With the release of yet another non-W&D book this December, the mystery novella Candles in the Dark, my readers might be justified in thinking I had left behind this world, and these characters, for good.
I am here today to tell you that is not the case.
No, this isn’t an announcement of the sequel, although I am in the line-editing stage of that and hope to have it out to the copy-editor soon. What I am announcing is an in-between project, something to both remind readers of this world (and possibly introduce new readers to it), and tide them over until the sequel does come out.
It is …
Magic & Mayhem, a collection of four short stories set in the Whitney & Davies world (one each featuring our intrepid protagonists, two featuring brand-new characters).
And that’s not all! Magic & Mayhemalso includes the first chapter of the sequel to Magic Most Deadly, titled Glamours & Gunshots!
So, my faithful friends who have stuck with this blog and this writing journey of mine for the last five years, your patience will have its reward at last. Four short stories and the sure promise of the next novel in the series.
I don’t have an exact release date for Magic & Mayhem yet, but it will be out soon, and I will update here as soon as I have more solid information.
I have to admit, I kind of love the start of the new year. All those resolutions and goals and fresh starts that everybody makes jokes about because they never last beyond March? Yeah, I used to mock them too, but somewhere in the last few years I repented, and now I love them.
I don’t really make resolutions, though. Mostly because I’m easily discouraged. Goals, though, goals I love to set at the start of the new year. New schedules that won’t last a week, plans to find and stay in a routine that never come to fruition, dreams and goals and words to live by that are generally forgotten by September … no matter, come January 1st we can lay all that aside and try again.
Last year my “word for the year” was mindful. My goals were to practice mindfulness in writing, in reading, in everyday life. Of course I didn’t succeed as well as I would have liked, but I did make a change in how I approach life. I made a start in mindfulness. That’s enough of a success for me.
This year my word is “quiet.” To be quiet within my soul, to not spend so much time listening to the noise of the world (yes, this means social media, not exclusively but largely), to listen to other people instead of talking (I used to be so much better about this), to have quietness and steadiness within and without me.
“In quietness and in trust shall be your strength,” says Isaiah 30:15, and I mean to live this year believing that verse.
I have other goals as well–refill my creative well enough to be able to write well this year. My bucket has been scraping the bottom for several months, and while I’ve been writing steadily, very little of it is anything I can feel satisfied with. (I’m hoping the quiet thing helps with this as well–listen to the voice of creativity inside me rather than being distracted by all the other noises of the world). Get fit before our big move–I am far too sedentary for good health, and while I’ve no desire to be an athlete, I do want to be able to move well and comfortably. Stick with my reading log for an entire year; I started this last year as part of my attempt to read mindfully, but I gave up around the time we moved and even before then I was not consistent. Find a good daily routine and, as best I can, stick with it. Even though I know sickness and company and insomnia and other curveballs will come, I want a routine I–we–can return to rather than letting such things throw us off our game entirely.
And that’s pretty much it! Nothing too grand, just simple little things to help me be a more whole person.
How do you feel about New Year’s? Are you a resolution/goal maker, or do you prefer not to be bound by arbitrary dates for such things? Do you pick a word to focus on for a year, and if so, do you mind sharing it?
… May showers, apparently. I keep reminding myself of the awful drought last year and how much we needed rain (especially since we didn’t get much snow this winter), but oh, my spirit is longing for sunshine and warm temperatures! Not HOT, mind you, but mid-60s to 70s would be lovely.
April was notable mostly because I did Camp NaNoWriMo again, and accomplished my 30,000 words with a few days to spare! (actually it was 35,000, but I only officially signed up for 30,000) That’s about half of a draft. Not to give too much away, but this is the first draft of the next Whitney & Davies book, and it’s set in Cambridge. I’m hoping to finish the first draft in May and June, in time to finish the edits on the current W&D book and publish that this summer. Whew!
The kids finished Classical Conversations in April, which resulted in mixed feelings. They miss their classes and their friends, but it IS nice to have our Tuesdays back and to be able to focus on our own schoolwork that got pushed aside as the CC work got more demanding. Joy presented a research paper on Empress Wu during the closing ceremony, and both girls got up with their classes to demonstrate something they’d learned throughout the year. They had a great two years in CC, and now that chapter of our lives is closed. We’ve been told there’s a fantastic homeschool community in Cambridge, but no CC. Which is ok, because new experiences are good, too. I don’t like to cling too closely to the past.
Carl moves ever closer to graduation; he finished his final translations for his Biblical Languages degree a day or so before I finished my 35,000 words for Camp NaNo (we were having a wee bit of a competition), and all he has left for his New Testament degree is his thesis, which he will be completing through the rest of the spring and early summer. Graduation is a week from Saturday!
Our community ladies Bible Study wrapped up in April as well. This was my first and only year as one of the leaders. This semester we looked at the book of Philippians, and it was such a good study, prompting all kinds of discussion and thought. I’ve been part of the study on and off for the last four years; it’s going to seem odd this fall to not have it as part of my life! (But I’m looking forward to getting involved with other studies–see above about not clinging too closely to the past)
We have gotten some sunny days, and have been able to spend some time outside enjoying spring. Each day is one day closer to the end of our time here. It’s exciting and at the same time a little panic-inducing (mostly for me, as I think of all that has to be accomplished in order for us to move to England). With graduation next week, I think we’ll really be able to call this chapter of our lives closed.
In the meantime, I’m off on a date with my husband while the kids bake an apple pie with one of our neighbors! This, I’m most definitely going to miss.
We went to Cambridge! And made it back again, though if it weren’t for the fact that our girls were still stateside we might not have ever left.
England was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be. I couldn’t believe how much it was like how I’d always imagined it, in fact. I kept bracing myself for it to be different, to not live up to my imaginings, but no. It was exactly as I’d dreamed.
Now, I’m guessing that if I had gone to Yorkshire I wouldn’t have found a secret garden and children playing with wild animals on the moor. Lord Peter and Harriet Vane would not be punting in Oxford. Miss Read would not be bicycling to school in the Cotswolds. I didn’t see any hobbits, nor did any cupboard doors lead me to Narnia. I did pass Platform 9 3/4 at Kings’ Cross, but it was not in between platforms 9 and 10, and was clearly a tourist trap.
I do know the difference between fiction and reality. I just like to ignore it whenever possible.
The essence of England, though, the very Englishness of it … that was there. That was real. And I loved it.
We were only in London long enough to get from plane to train to tube to train (and then the reverse coming back), and the rest of the time we spent in Cambridge. Oh, for more time, to get to Oxford, and see the sights in London, to travel the rest of the island! We made the most of our four and a half days, though. We tramped 40 miles all over Cambridge and got to know that city far better than most tourists can.
It is beautiful.
I could write pages and pages of our adventures there, but as I doubt they’d be as fascinating to others as they were to us (met with university housing! Had a cream tea! Were served tea and toast every morning by our hosts! Explored possible places to live! Walked through an ancient cemetery and saw my first European robin! Were nearly mobbed by swans looking for food! Went to Waterstones and the Cambridge University Press bookshop and couldn’t buy anything either place because I had no room in my bag!), I’ll hold back.
We can’t wait to go back. I can’t believe we’ll actually be living there for three (or maybe more, depending on how long Carl’s PhD takes) years.
We are (almost) halfway through January! How is the month looking for everyone else?
Here, we’ve had:
Rearranged our living room and can’t figure out why we waited 3.5 years to set it up like this.
Trip to Grandma’s house to finish off our holiday traveling/festivities.
We had snow this past weekend, enough for sledding, and by Wednesday it had all vanished. No one in this household is particularly pleased about this. I want to use my cross-country skis; the kids want to play in the snow; Carl, believe it or not, wants to shovel. Plus we all just prefer winter to be winter. Hmph.
Kids are enthusiastically participating in the Read-Aloud Revival 31 Days Challenge–they have only missed a few days of reading out loud for at least 15 minutes. Gracie, at least, usually goes longer. Joy is more these-are-the-rules-so-we-should-follow-them and so even if she’s at a really good place, she stops as soon as the timer beeps. It’s great for Gracie in building her confidence (she’s a fantastic reader but thinks she can only handle easy books) and for Joy in forcing her to slow down and process what she’s reading (she reads SO FAST that I’m certain she only takes in about 80% maximum of whatever she reads).
I finally passed the halfway point on my current draft of Magic in Disguise, the next Maia and Len book. Technically this is the first book in the Whitney & Davies series, as this is the one that really starts them off on their detecting careers together, but it is the second book about them–Magic Most Deadly, I’ve decided, really works best as a prequel when compared to how I want the rest of the series to go. Is that over-complicated? Sorry. At any rate, every step of the way with this book has been a slog, but the fog is starting to lift. I had it ready to send to my critique partner (which is when I consider a story done the same way a cake is done–all the editing and polishing I do after that is icing and decorating, but the heart of it is finished) last May, and ever since she sent it back to me I’ve been crawling on it. But I’m getting there, and it’s going to be ready for beta-ing by the end of the month, barring any unforeseen accidents like spraining an ankle or some such nonsense (rap wood).
We got back to Classical Conversations (the kids’ homeschool co-op) and back to school in general. We aren’t quite where I’d like to be yet–our morning time keeps getting started late, so we haven’t been able to work in our Shakespeare memorization this semester yet, and schoolwork keeps spilling into our free time in the afternoons–but we’re getting there. It’s always tricky settling back into our routine after winter break.
I am taking a break from refined sugar and wheat for January, in an attempt to break my body of its dependency on both. I know from experience that a little is fine, a lot wrecks me, and thanks to the holidays, I’ve been having a LOT of both. I’ve also started exercising again, something that slid away when I sprained my ankle last May (see above) and never got picked back up. So far, I’m grumpy and sad because of the diet change, but the exercising is going well.
I’ve managed to catalog each of the books I’ve read so far this month in a book journal. Whether that means I’m reading more mindfully is still up in the air.
Getting prepared for the Bible Study I’m co-leading this semester for the women in our apartment building. We’re going to be going through Philippians this semester, which should be great. I’ve discovered somewhat to my surprise that I really enjoy teaching and leading a study, and thanks to Carl, I have commentaries a-plenty at my fingertips. And I can always ask him if there’s any particularly tricky translation issues!
The only other really interesting thing that’s happened this month is that Carl finally convinced me to give Duolingo a try, and I’m diving back into French. Parts of the app really frustrate me (like when you fail a lesson because they expect you to know something they haven’t yet taught you), but overall it’s been fun. I thoroughly enjoyed taking French back in college and have always wanted to get back to it, and so now I am! I’m already wondering what language I should tackle next after this, Russian or Welsh. I desperately wanted to learn both of them in high school, and now I have a chance!
Oh, and I also got to do an impromptu mini-presentation at CC this week–all the kids have to give an oral presentation each week, and this week they got to pick a topic out of a hat. One of the drawn topics was “why are books so important,” and the tutor laughed and asked me if I wanted to take that one, so I said sure. It wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic as my library presentation last March, but it was a lot of fun and made me think how much I’d love to give a proper, adapted version of my “why stories matter” speech at a school or children’s library sometime. Add that one to my dream list!
And that is my mid-January report. Nothing tremendously spectacular, but I don’t want to look back in December and not remember anything about this month, so I’m writing it down even if it seems simple and small. It’s the little moments that add up to a life anyway.