Lemonade for 2021

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2021.

The new year is always a chance to change things up and try something different. I don’t make resolutions, but I do make plans. 🙂 Sometimes they come together and sometimes they don’t – 2020 was certainly a good example of things not proceeding according to plan. What about this year?

One of the changes brought by Covid-19 is the produce section at my local grocery store. The produce is a lot less fresh than it used to be, and sometimes it’s more expensive. The discounted produce section has grown and often that produce isn’t much different than what’s at the front of the store. I always check it out. This week, there were lemons in the discount bin, probably hundreds of them. I brought home more lemons than I need, because you don’t often get 14 lemons in Canada for less than $1 and I couldn’t resist them. Then I had to figure out what to do with them.

This brings me to an old saying which I’m choosing as my slogan for 2021:

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

2020 gave many of us a lot of lemons, maybe too many lemons to manage well. But maybe you’ve caught your stride in this new world of ours or can find a better rhythm. I know a writer who treated 2020 like a personal retreat, focused on her work and produced more new books than she ever had before. I wish I’d done that myself since people were reading more last year and hungry for new content. (I was busy catching lemons.) My plan is to give that strategy a try this year and put this situation to work for me.

What about you? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? I learned to make sourdough bread last year, which was new for me and now is part of my weekly routine. Is there a book you’ve been waiting to read? An online course you’ve been wanting to take? A new skill you’ve never gotten around to learning? If you’re in lock-down, quarantine or self-isolating, this might be the perfect opportunity to do any or all of those things, and create some lemonade of your own.

I’ll tell you a bit next week about what’s in my writing and publishing plans for 2021 and will post my monthly feature on Monday, but today, have a think about what you can change to have more lemonade in your life. Let’s make 2021 a year of lemonade!

As for those lemons, I’m working my way through them. I made Mr. Math’s favorite sour cream coffee cake already (it’s lemon) and will be making our version of Chicken Piccata this weekend (we grill the chicken instead of breading and frying it). I’ll make my mom’s lemon loaf recipe today and put some in the freezer to give to her the next time we meet. I’ve always wanted to find a recipe for lemon poppyseed muffins. We’ll have Madhur Jaffrey’s Lemony Coriander Chicken for dinner one night, too. The list goes on and every single item will be yummy. I’ll be out of lemons in no time!

On New Series – and Stalking the Muse

Last week, I started this Monday column – for lack of a better word – for a reader update on the state of the empire, so to speak, and some musings on a creative life. Last week, I wrote about the last six and a half years of being indie, and making the transition from traditional publishing. I wrote about bats, too. 🙂 This week, we’ll look ahead at the work in progress and books coming soon, then talk a bit about sewing.

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeWhat can you expect in book releases from me in the next year? Well, there’s a tiny bit of finishing up to do yet. Under the Mistletoe is the fourth and final book in the Secret Heart Ink series of contemporary romances and it will be available in September. Some Like it Hot is the seventh and final book in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances and it will be available in February. I know that all of the partners have their happily-ever-after, but I wanted to take one last peek in at the club, and leave them with a new means of recruiting models for their Times Square billboard. It’s true that there are characters who still need their stories told – Hunter, Sonja, Rachel, Nate – but the current plan is for Some Like it Hot to end the series.

It’s entirely possible that there could be a spin-off series, or that these characters could find their HEA’s in another series (which is a much more interesting proposition to me.)

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionOver on the historical side, my Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances is still in progress. I think this will be scheduled at a book a year or so, at least for the time being, with some shorter works or republished works in between. One Knight’s Desire is the next Rogues & Angels book, and I’m hoping to publish it in the spring. I’m enjoying researching and writing this series and want to savor the process a little. 🙂

Unicorn Bride is the next republished work for Claire and will be published later this month. I’m not sure what the next one will be. I have covers done for the Rose trilogy, but they need some work to be a more closely-knit series.

The shorter stories in between will be Kinfairlie Tales. I have covers done for three of them and will tell you more about each one when it’s available for pre-order.

Dragon's Kiss, book two of the DragonFate novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeThen there’s entirely new work. The most obvious example of that is the DragonFate series of paranormal romances, which is a new series featuring my dragon shapeshifter heroes, the Pyr. The prequel, Maeve’s Book of Beasts, was published earlier this summer, and the first full-length romance in this series, Dragon’s Kiss, will be published in October.

This series is proving to be a lot of fun to write, because there are lots of other paranormal creatures in the Dragonfire world and now they all have to band together to defeat Maeve. You know that vampires aren’t going to get along with anyone, that dragon shifters are going to lose their tempers and get fiery, and that the dark fae will be tricksy. Throw in a slow-burn romance between a librarian and the hot vampire she knows is no good for her, and a firestorm between a dragon shifter and a Valkyrie, and New York night life will become very interesting.

There are a few more things in the works, but that’s plenty to talk about today.

The thing about writing for me is that I can’t write all the time. I generate new content for maybe four hours a day. In the past, when I was traditionally published, I would spend the rest of the day doing other stuff and letting my ideas for the next day’s writing percolate. Sometimes there was promotional stuff to do; sometimes there were publishing jobs (like reviewing proofs) to finish. At least half of the time, though, I would do other things, activities that had nothing directly to do with writing and publishing. I would sew. I would garden. I would knit. I would walk or ride my bike. I would go to an art gallery or a museum, or go shopping. I would cook or try out a new recipe. All of these activities – and more – cut my imagination loose to figure out what came next in my book, and by the time I sat down at the computer the next morning, I knew what to write. They also gave me a more balanced schedule and a healthier lifestyle.

Going indie changed that schedule. I still write for three or four hours each morning, but for the past few years, I had publishing tasks to do, each and every day. My ToDo lists were so long (and remain that long) that I never finished them. So, I spent more time at my desk and my imagination had less time to play. Writing became a little harder each day. I gained some weight and my stress levels rose.

On Writing by Stephen KingSo, taking a step back from the business of publishing my books is an excellent personal decision in many, many ways. I’m glad that the rate of change in the digital marketplace has slowed to the point that I feel comfortable doing that. About a year ago, I realized that my ToDo list was never going to be done and made my peace with some things just not happening. (This was tough and I still struggle with the imperfection of it.) I switched my office – which was in a large bedroom in our house – with our TV room, which is a smaller room. This felt like assigning the writing to its proper role in my life. Stephen King talks about making a similar change in his book On Writing, which is an excellent work that I think every author should read. I also divided this new office, putting my sewing table in there as well as my desk. I started to walk more last year which made me feel a lot better.

One stressful element of spending so much time at the desk, battling the endless ToDo list, is that the muse, the source of ideas and creativity, becomes more elusive. I knew I needed her back.

I revisited a favorite resource of mine, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This series of books features readings and exercises to help creatives restore and feed their souls, and I highly recommend it. It’s invaluable when trying to balance commerce and creativity. There actually are a number of books in this series – this is the first one, but I’ve worked through three of them.

I need to create other things in order to create stories. I need to play with colour and texture in order to tempt my muse to visit regularly. Sewing is one of the ways I create but I had packed it all away. I was still buying fabric, but just packing it away! Two years ago, I first tried Japanese sewing patterns, which tend to be of simple, classic shapes. This year, I have a collection of Japanese pattern books and am working on some more new garments from them. I have an astonishing stash and have begun to cut into it. This year, I also started to sew with knits for the first time and told you about that when I made some Mirri dresses.  This summer, I learned more about fitting garments, which is a fascinating business. I also pieced a new quilt top this year, the Escher quilt.

I also am making good progress on weeding and mulching my gardens this year. Weeds are similar to ToDo lists, in that they’re never all eradicated, but it’s very satisfying to clear them out all the same.

And what happens in the middle of all this? The muse appears in my peripheral vision and if I don’t spook her, she stays. Then ideas happen. Questions arise. Possibilities abound and I get very excited about new work.

We’ll talk more about that next week.

Another Month of Walking

It’s been four weeks since I told you about my new walking plan. Last time, I did my 4.5km daily walk 20 times in 28 days. This time, I did it 24 times, which means I missed 6 days.

On one of those days, we went to Ikea and parked at the far end of the lot. Between that and walking around the store, I was only 1km short for the day, which is funny. So, I’m counting 25 days of walking.

I also went to a conference last week (more about that in tomorrow’s post), and ended up with two travel days. On both of them, I managed to fit in my walk before going to the airport. Both of those days, I doubled my walking distance for the day, which tells you all you need to know about Pearson International Airport in Toronto. While at the conference, I walked on the beach each day, which was a lovely change of scene. Those days also had more distance – the walk down the beach was 6 km, then there was all the running around the conference hotel. In the end, I’m probably not short 5 full days if I add up the distance, but we’ll call it 25 days of walking and aim for improvement.

Autumn has arrived here in Canada, and I enjoyed seeing the changes on my daily walk over the past month. The leaves on the trees are changing colour, of course, and are just beautiful. They haven’t fallen yet, but I’m looking forward to walking through them. (The urge to kick them never seems to fade.)

I’ve also been noticing how the wildlife is migrating. The cormorants arrived on the lake a few weeks ago. They’ll stay until the water gets colder or freezes over, since they need to catch fresh fish every day. The Canada geese started to fly their practice flights: they fly shorter circuits, probably working up their strength. At first you can watch them fly the entire circle and they’re airborne for only ten minutes or so. Within days, they’re flying huge loops and disappear from view before returning. They tend to hang around until the first hard frost, but are becoming more numerous as more northern flocks arrive and take a break here. The blue jays are back in larger numbers again—although they’re often noisy birds, in flock, they’re quiet. It’s common at this time of year to glance out the window and discover two or three dozen blue jays looking for food, silently, before they all take flight again.

Have you been walking this month? Are you seeing the change in the seasons where you live?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a bit more about attending the Novelists’ Ink conference this year.