Looking Back, Moving Forward

Happy 2020 everyone. It’s a new year and a new decade. I intended to write a year-end post earlier in the week, but unfortunately, both my husband and I are recovering from the flu. Not an ideal way to begin a new year and both of us had the flu shot. So, this post is a combo of reflecting back and looking forward.

Looking back…

All in all, 2019 was a much better year for me than in 2018. I was glad to get that one behind me as it seemed there was one thing after another—car problems, changes at my job, and health issues for both my husband and me—to name a few. But even ending 2019 with illness, it was a good one.

Writing-wise, I had a productive year, although I only published one novel. Unclear Purposes, the third and final book of my Driscoll Lake Series, was published in late May.

I began keeping a word count of everything I wrote last year—novels, short stories, blog posts, and even book reviews. Although some of the things I wrote will likely not see the light of day, the word count made me realize what I can do. I finished the year with 228K words. That’s more than three novels!

Beginning in August, I began blogging regularly and learned I could blog every day. I started regular features including Mystery Monday, WIP Wednesdays, and Thursday Thoughts. Because of my commitment to NaNoWriMo, I took the month of November off from blogging and most social media outlets. Due to various reasons, December was also a sporadic month.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I made the goal of writing at least 50K words on a new project. I still have about 25K words to go, but that I’ve never completed two-thirds of a novel in a month before.

In addition to writing, I also read more in 2019. I set a Goodreads challenge of twenty books and finished out the year with thirty.

Moving forward…

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do try to set goals. This is what I hope to accomplish in 2020:

  • Publish at least one novel. Cold Dark Night is the first of my new Legends of Madeira series. My goal is to publish it in late spring.
  • Woman in Black is a short (45-minute read) that is a prequel to Cold Dark Night. Initially, I planned to include it with a group of short stories, but I’ve decided to keep it separate. Look for this one also in the spring.
  • I still plan to publish a book of short stories—most likely in the fall. The name of the collection is still undetermined.
  • Ideally, I would like to publish the second book of the Legends of Madeira series in late 2020. The tentative name is Blood Red Dawn.
  • My reading goal for this year is twenty-five books.
  • You’ll also find me at Story Empire. We will celebrate our fourth year anniversary in late August.

In regards to blogging, I plan to continue Mystery Mondays. Tuesdays are set aside for book reviews and/or guest posts. Next week I’ll pick up with my Friday links posts. I probably won’t do WIP Wednesdays every week, but will post this feature at least monthly.

I’ll also continue Thursday Thoughts, but as with Wednesdays, I probably won’t post each week. One lesson learned in 2019 is the importance of finding balance. Writing is a priority for me, but I still hold a full-time job. I have some ongoing health issues that I need to see to (nothing serious), and more importantly, is to make time for family and friends.

I’m a natural introvert, and it would be easy for me to hibernate in my house and hide behind the computer screen. That’s not good. Everyone needs a break from writing and social media. It’s also important not to forget to enjoy being around those you love and care for.

So, there you have it. My goals for 2020. What about you? Please share in the comments.

Woman in Black #WIPWednesday

Hey, everyone. A couple of weeks ago, I shared a photo of a house that served as inspiration for a short story.

I first wrote and published this piece several years ago as First Friday Fiction. The original post was all telling (and I do mean ALL). It was only around 350 words.

I’ve learned it’s easier to write long and edit down than the reverse. There were times when I wanted to scrap this story all together, but the idea still intrigued me enough that I wanted to include it in my upcoming book of short stories. Not only that, I plan for this to be a prequel to the first novel of a new series.

A New Mexico Sunset. Woman in Black, as well as my new series, takes place in a fictional town in my neighboring state.

The story is still a work in progress and now stands at a little over 2000 words. Through a series of flashbacks, Ruth Hazelton looks back over her life and ponders how she came to be known as the woman in black. After her husband’s death, she became a virtual recluse.

Then she discovers the women who lived in the house all had something in common. And it’s not a good thing. She’s reluctant to move away for fear history will repeat itself. Today, I’m sharing a couple of snippets.

Ruth Hazelwood leaned heavily on a four-pronged cane as she ambled into the living room with her morning cup of tea.

The autumn morning was chilly, so she snatched a black shawl from the wing-backed chair, then wrapped it around her shoulders before sitting down.

As she sipped her tea, she studied an unopened letter from her nephew, Tim. The envelope had arrived in yesterday’s mail, probably another of his attempts to convince her to move.

Ruth hadn’t always been a recluse. When she first moved into this house almost fifty years earlier, she knew most of her neighbors. But all that changed one fateful night in 1980.

Ruth quickly settled into her new life. Medina was a laid-back town, and she soon came to love the place. The old Victorian-style house was beautiful. Ruth bought hanging baskets for the front porch and planted flowers in beds and along the sidewalk.

Her elderly neighbor Sam became a frequent visitor. He was an amiable person as well as an interesting conversationalist.

“I like what you’ve done to this place,” he said during one of his visits. “Reminds me of when Chief Guthrie lived here. His wife liked flowers. Nancy kept everything looking nice.”

“You mentioned the chief when we first met.”

“Damn shame what happened to him. After his death, Nancy moved back east to be closer to her family.”

“How did he die?”

Sam was quick to change the subject. “It’s too lovely of a day to be discussing such matters.”

Why doesn’t Sam want to talk about the chief’s death? Will history repeat itself? I’ll post more about this, my short story collection, and the new Legends series in the weeks and months to come.