January is normally a time when we set our goals for the coming year and make all sorts of well-intentioned plans for improving ourselves as people and as writers. This year we are understandably considerably more wary. Who can predict what might happen in the next few weeks let alone make plans for a whole twelve months ahead? There are no lecture cruises inked in on my calendar, I am doing one zoom lecture at a writers’ conference in March, but other than that, my year planner is empty.
We keep hearing our British politicians talk about the importance of the ‘R’ factor so, rather than sorting out a detailed month by month list for the year, I’ve decided on more general goals – research, write, read and review.
Most significant for me is not being able to plan any research trips. I used to think that the major benefit of writing travel mysteries was having a great excuse for more holidays but now it’s become a major disadvantage. As my regular readers will appreciate, I’ve coped this year by keeping my tour manager Fiona Mason in this country and taking her party round British sites I’ve already visited. Thanks to you, ‘Blood Follows Jane Austen’ had a great launch early last month. I have plans for the next Fiona Mason Mystery to have a Christmas Markets setting. I’m hoping by the end of the year all out travel restrictions will be at an end. Without doing the tour myself, there is no way I can make a convincing adventure for Fiona.
This year’s novel will be another Harry and Aunt Jessica Mystery and the setting is the rich exotic world of Persia with its amazing Palaces and ornate mosques and larger-than-life historical characters. Our last holiday was to Iran in November 2019 (see my blog post for December 2019). Normally, I wouldn’t share my writing journey until the novel was all but complete, but this year, things are different. A chance remark to a friend who had actually spent time with the Iran community in London many years ago sparked a whole new idea and now I not only have the setting but a much more credible plot than the one I’d initially planned. Perhaps sharing ideas with you folk might open up whole new lines as the story progresses.
Just like last year, I’ll be spending far more time researching online.
I’ve spent a little more time than usual trying to outline the major steps in my plot. I’m not a natural plotter, but once again, in an attempt to follow the good advice given by all the ‘experts’ in the articles I read both in Writing Magazine (my monthly dose of learning more about my craft) and the various blogs that drop into my inbox, I did make an effort. Not that I got that far. It’s just not the way I work best! I now have ideas for the prologue and opening chapters which means January 1st is my day to begin writing and start enjoying the journey and see where it takes me. When I get stuck, I shall be turning to you my dear friends, if not for advice, then for support.
One of the first things that falls into place is the title. ‘Undercover Geisha’ came to mind long before I even decided it would be a Harry and Aunt Jessica novel and ‘Murder in Morocco’ seemed inevitable. ‘Perfidy in Persia’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it might do until something better comes along.
Depending on how long it is going to take me to write, re-write and publish my Persian novel, because I will be unable to research the location for my next Fiona Mystery until November at the earliest, I may have to think about a new series altogether. I’ve had a hankering to write something a little different for quite some time. Perhaps my 1960’s assistant PI might just see the light of day. We shall see.
‘Writers are readers’ is a maxim familiar to us all. I’ve decided to read more. Not that I’m short of reading matter, apart from my bookshelves, my Kindle is stuffed with more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime. I stopped downloading all those great offers sent to me each day by BookBub and Reading Deals some time ago but new books by friends plus my favourite authors mean that the list is still growing rather than going down. I do subscribe to Voracious Readers Only, both as a writer and reader, but no matter how interesting it might seem, I only download a book if I know I have only one novel on my to-read-next list. The wording makes it clear that readers are provided with a review copy. (Though as an author subscriber, I have to say the review rate is no better than 10%.)
That’s why in 2021, I’m also determined to write a review for every book I download (the only exception is those for whom I feel unable to give more than 1 or 2*). No more letting it get lost in the recesses of my Kindle. Few eBooks are more than the price of a cup of coffee, not a lot for something that probably took a year to write. Even the price of paperbacks is one of the few things in life that has not risen automatically with the cost of living. The least we can do is show our appreciation with a review.
A FINAL THOUGHT
All in all, my only other resolution is to concentrate more on keeping in touch with my friends. I’m going to start with a big, big thank you to all of you who have reviewed one of my books and to wish you a Happy New Year!
My best wishes for a positive 2021 filled with lots of friends and support no matter what life throws at us.
Don’t forget to share your hopes and dreams for the coming year in the comment box on the browser.