They say time goes more quickly the older you get – I must be very old! This year has just flown by. I like to publish a novel each year. By August, I would normally have finished the first draft and done two or three rewrites. As things stand right now, I’m only just about a third of the way through the first draft of ‘Undercover Geisha’ the second in the Aunt Jessica series. The chances of seeing it up on Amazon by the end of December are virtually zilch.
So why am I so behind? It’s nothing to do with having writers’ block. Part of the answer lies in the number of holidays we’ve had this year. In spring we had a wonderful river cruise along the Danube from the charming German city of Passau, stopping at Linz where we took a trip to Cesky Krumlov, Krems Vienna and Bratislava, ending with a few days in the historic city of Budapest. I can’t even claim that this was a research trip. It’s too far for Winston to drive Fiona’s party from Britain all across Europe. But even writers are entitled to a holiday.
When we arrived back, I was offered the chance to lecture onboard a round Britain cruise in May. Preparing the history lectures took some time so the novel had to take a back burner. Although I wasn’t able to continue with the manuscript, I did find time to plot out a more detailed plan and I now have a much better idea of where I’m heading.
Our baby was fifty this year. She is thirteen months younger than her brother and to celebrate their birthdays, we took them to the Pantanal in Brazil.
They both love wildlife and we have previously had two great safari holidays together, one in Kenya some time back and another tiger watching in India five years ago. You can see one of the photos and a video on my Facebook page. We thought it would be difficult to top that, but our trip to the wetlands of the Pantanal was if anything even better.
Jaguar, ocelot, tapir, giant anteater and giant otter are all rare animals, not easily seen, but luck was on our side. We didn’t just catch glimpses of them. Thanks to our expert guides, we were able to watch them for twenty minutes or so.
In addition, we saw twenty other mammals. The birds were amazing from colourful hyacinth macaws, toucans, jabiru (which is taller than me) to tiny wrens – 268 different bird species in all. A truly memorable, magical holiday which ended with a trip to Iguazu Falls.
I was planning on getting back to the novel as soon as I got back but I had another cruise offer. This was to the Baltic and with six destination talks to prepare, it wasn’t just the novel that I had to abandon. Line dancing, Zumba, Pilates all went by the board as did any chance to relax and watch television in the evening.
It was a great trip but exhausting. We tend to get off the ship more or less as soon as it docks and explore the area returning only half an hour before the back-on-board time. In most ports that was from nine o’clock in the morning to five thirty in the evening. Apart from half an hour to have a coffee and cake at lunchtime, we were on our feet either walking or wandering around museums, castles or looking into churches. We got back late on Sunday, so unpacking, washing and ironing, answering the many emails that have accrued, have taken up most of the time.
Will I be getting on with the novel? Guess what. Just as I was in the middle of writing the second paragraph of this blog, I had a phone call from the cruise agency offering me another cruise. I’m going to be off again in September. This is an eight-day cruise to Norway. I only have two presentations to prepare and six weeks in which to do so, which is not the pressure I had last time. I might just get a few more chapters written before I go.
A few years ago, my husband and I adopted a policy that at our age you never know what lies around the corner so let’s go see the places we want to see while we still can. However, I think it’s time we learn to slow down a little. When we go to Norway, even though we’ve only been to one of the ports before, we need to pace ourselves. Let’s see if that works.
Tempted though I am to make a start on my research of Viking Kings (the topic for one of my presentations for the September cruise), I am determined to get back to working on ‘Undercover Geisha’ as soon as I’ve published this blog. I’ve already had several enquiries along the lines of – ‘How much longer am I going to have to wait for the next novel,’ so I owe it to my readers. It may be a tall order, but I promise to do my best to have it all done and dusted by the end of the year. Apart from anything else, the outline for next year’s novel is already taking shape in the back of my mind and I like to start working on the new novel on January 1st each year. Changing the pattern could be the start of the slippery slope.