Retiring is Hard Work & More Random Thoughts

Four weeks from today, I’ll be retired. For several months, I’ve teased my co-workers that I’m going to sit on my front porch that first morning, take a photo of the sunrise, and text them with the message, “This is what I’m doing today.

With my luck, it will probably be pouring down rain, but that’s okay because we desperately need it. We’re in a severe drought right now, somewhat reminiscent of the summer of 2011.

Not quite as bad, but still cause for concern.

Anyway, back to retirement. I began planning this around mid-December. One of my co-workers, who had planned for years, is retiring the same day. When I returned from a week’s vacation in early January, we had something like thirty-three weeks until the big day, and now it’s down to four.

I’ve come to one conclusion. Retiring, or planning for retirement, is hard work. I’ve already turned over most of my job duties to others, so the work days seem long. One thing I can say about my job is that it never got boring. There was always plenty to do and new challenges every day. (When I interviewed, I said I wanted a challenging job. I got my wish.)

Still, there are days when I come home mentally exhausted. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to finish the last of my collection of short stories. Yes, I’m behind, and yes, I still plan to publish them this year. It’s looking like an October release date. I have a title and a cover, but more on that later.

I continue plugging along on my stories and plodding along on my remaining work days. I’m looking forward to not having to wake up to an alarm clock, although I’ll need to train my four-legged alarm clock not to wake me at 5:00.

I want to get back on a more regular blog schedule (something besides book reviews). I already have some plans in the works, but I’m not rushing anything. At first, I want to enjoy scenes like this:

Both views are from my front porch. Obviously not taken this year because everything was green.

One of the short stories in my collection had the working title The House on Baker Street. The name, but not the story, was inspired by this song written and recorded by the late Gerry Rafferty. I’ll leave you with a video.

The Year in Review #ThursdayThoughts

Hey, everyone. Today is the last day of 2020. If you’re like most people there aren’t many words more welcomed than those. This has been a trying year in more ways than one.

It was what I expected to be a great year. 2020 had a nice ring to it. We were twenty years into the millennium. And I welcomed it on Instagram.

But the novelty soon faded. Naturally, there are a few words and phrases I wish I’d never heard.

  • Social distancing
  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • Contactless delivery (or pickup)
  • Quarantine
  • Shelter in place
  • Wear a mask
  • Stay six feet apart

Sadly, these have become the norm, but I try to look for positives in everything. Here are a few:

  • More online meetings. I hope these stay around after the pandemic ends.
  • Having more quality time at home
  • Focusing on family and what’s really important
  • More home-cooked meals and less eating out
  • My husband and I played more games this year. Board games – not the online stuff
Trivial Pursuit is a long-time favorite game of ours.

I didn’t achieve my goal of publishing a short-story and novel this year. I’d like to blame it on COVID. That may not be far from the truth. In my day job (the one that pays the bills), I do a daily report for COVID stats. A few times this year I’ve had what I call COVID fatigue, but a few days of vacation work wonders. I can only imagine what the front-line healthcare workers feel.

Looking toward 2021, my short-story, House of Sorrow, needs a final read-through and edit, then it will be ready for publication. I’m looking at late February.

The novel, Cold Dark Night, is almost 90% completed. Because House of Sorrow is a prequel, I’d like to publish the two of them within two months. Fingers crossed for April. The covers are ready for both books, so I’ll be revealing them in the coming weeks.

I’m still toying with the idea of a book of short stories as well as planning the second book of the Legends of Madeira series, Blood Red Dawn.

Blogging wise, I hope to post twice a week. Mystery Mondays will continue on a monthly basis. I have an idea for a new monthly series as well. Otherwise, my posts will be random days. And as always, I love to have guests. So, if you have a new book release or if you’re promoting an older release and would like for me to host you, just use the contact form. My only stipulation is that I don’t post on weekends and prefer not to post on Fridays.

And now, as we approach 2021, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. As for 2020, here’s today’s Instagram photo:

Best Laid Plans #ThursdayThoughts

Hey y’all. It’s time for this week’s Thursday Thoughts.

Like many of today’s writers, I also hold a full-time job. I leave the house around 6:30 each weekday morning and get home around 4:30 unless I have errands to run.

My husband works on Saturdays, and I try to use that day as my primary time to write. I had big plans this past weekend. I woke up early, grabbed a quick shower, saw the hubs off to work, and sat down at my writing desk. I was productive during the first part of the morning and finished the first draft of a short story.

By that time, I was ready for breakfast, so I stopped long enough to eat, then took my laptop and settled on the sofa for what I hoped would be an equally productive writing schedule. However…

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” John Steinbeck

Mid-morning, I got a text from a friend who asked if I could help someone with an urgent matter. I readily agreed and contacted the person. Several emails and a few hours later, I was able to solve her problem by early afternoon.

In the meantime, I lost my momentum for writing. I was able to brainstorm on a few short stories. Writing in the evening was out. My husband and I had plans to go out to dinner with a group from our church who meet each month. I always enjoy these events but when we arrived at the restaurant, I kept thinking how I’d rather be home writing.

Then, a friend came up to me and said, “I love your new book. Both Nathan and I are reading it. He lets me have it a little while each day.” She has been an encouragement to me and is instrumental in spreading the word about my writing.

Another couple attended. The man is a retired police detective who answered some questions I had about investigations and has offered his assistance with future books.

Next, another woman, after we played the game “truth or lie” said to me, “I thought you might say, ‘I’m Joan, and I’m a published author.’”

Someone else inquired about my book sales. Another friend and her husband attended. She has encouraged me to consider speaking engagements to help promote my books.

Yes, I lost writing time on Saturday, but what I gained was far greater. I was able to help someone with a problem attain a satisfying solution. I learned to appreciate even more the support and encouragement of friends. I met new people and enjoyed the time of fellowship.

I’ll have other opportunities to write. I may not have those times with friends who care for and support my efforts.

Seals and Crofts once recorded a song titled, “We May Never Pass This Way Again.” I’ll leave you with the video.

Thursday Thoughts

Hey, y’all. Yes, I’ve gone from rarely blogging to a regular schedule. I had planned to leave Thursdays open, but yesterday an idea came to mind – Thursday Thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll write these each week, but I do plan to have a Thursday post at least a couple of times per month.

The idea behind the post is random thoughts about something that caught my attention during the week. They may or may not pertain to writing. I hope you will enjoy them.

A coworker once asked me where I got ideas for my novels. My first response was, “A very active imagination.” While that is true, I recalled standing on the deck of a cruise ship with a friend a few years back admiring the beautiful scenery. Except for our ship, there were few signs of civilization, but I knew beyond those mountains were tiny towns and villages.

People lived and worked in those places. I began to wonder what their lives were like in a place with such harsh winters. What did they do for a living? How did they survive (without going crazy) during the winter months where they saw little or no daylight? Story ideas began to pop in my head.

After we returned home, I came across this quote by Orson Scott Card:

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

Last week I happened upon a story that deeply touched me. It was a story fifty-two years in the making. The story of a father and a son.

In 1967 Major Roy A. Knight, a US Air Force pilot, was shot down while flying a mission over Laos. He was first declared missing in action. Military officials later changed his status to killed in action. He was posthumously promoted to Colonel and received several medals and commendations. Unfortunately for his family, his body was never located or recovered.

Almost fifty-two years passed until February 2019 when discovered remains were positively identified as belonging to Colonel Knight. Last Thursday, August 8, his son Brian, a Captain with Southwest Airlines, flew the plane carrying his father’s coffin into Dallas Love Field airport.

A “water salute” greeted the plane as it taxied toward the terminal. People inside the airport watched with interest as the plane pulled up to the jet bridge. Baggage handlers stood at attention. Passengers inside the plane clapped when they learned what had transpired. Many tears were shed, including my own.

For you see, Brian Knight was only five years old when he last saw his father in 1967. And the place they were last together? Dallas Love Field Airport.

I have always had the utmost respect for the men and women in our military. They put their lives on the line so we might have the freedoms we enjoy (and often take for granted). Colonel Knight’s story reminded me of the sacrifices made by many throughout the years.

Below is a short video of Captain Knight talking about his father and the trip “home.” Warning: you may want to have tissues handy.

Road Trips, Ghost Towns, and The Week in Review

Hey, y’all. Time for another weekly wrap up. If you read last week’s post, you know I took a mini-vacation. Last Friday, my husband and I hit the road for a day trip. Call us crazy, but we traveled three hours to a “Ghost Town” for the sole purpose of eating lunch. Okay, we also did some sightseeing along the way.

Thurber, Texas

Located seventy-five miles west of Fort Worth, Thurber was once a thriving place in the early 1900s. It was a “Company Town” owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company. Mining began there in 1886. By 1920, the town had almost 10,000 residents. By then most locomotives had converted to diesel, and the demand for coal decreased. T&P moved on to nearby Ranger and cashed in on the oil boom.

The Smokestack Restaurant

All that’s left of Thurber is an old smokestack, a recently restored church building, a museum, and a couple of restaurants. According to the 2010 census, the community of Thurber has a population of 48. However, the Smokestack Restaurant (where we went for lunch) states the population is five. Hence the reason for Thurber being a ghost town, not because there are any sinister spirits lurking about. (Although it’s possible!)

But enough about the history lesson and our trip. Let’s get on with the weekly writing links.

On This Blog:

From Story Empire:

From Other Writing Sites: