When I look back on 2013, I’ll think of a lot of things. Struggling every day for what seemed an eternity to finish Striking Distance (I-Team Book 6). Being a RITA finalist for Defiant (MacKinnon's Rangers Book 3). Meeting actor/voice artist Kaleo Griffith, who narrates my audiobooks. Having a little party with I-Team group members in Atlanta.
Raging wildfires across the state. Coffee and sushi with Jenn LeBlanc. Epic flash floods that turned my neighborhood into an island and left friends bereft of their homes and property. Watching my younger son get on a plane for eight months in Europe. Hitting the USA Today best-seller list with Striking Distance. Writing two novellas — First Strike, the erotic prequel to Striking Distance, and Upon A Winter’s Night, the MacKinnon’s Rangers Christmas novella that picked up where Defiant left off.
It was a big year.
I am grateful beyond measure for the friends and family who supported me through the highs and lows — and there were plenty of both — that made up 2013. A special shout-out goes to my sister Michelle, for always being there, and to Jenn LeBlanc, who is one of those friends who understands why I’m pissed off or sad (or both) without my needing to explain and who periodically shows up with a latte just when I need it most. Seriously, how many people do that?
My two sons, Alec and Benjamin, have been there for me at every turn, as well. Alec finally talked me into watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel this year, and we’ve spent a lot of nights sitting up way too late just to watch one more episode.
I’m also grateful to my readers, whose devotion to me and to the I-Team series landed Striking Distance on the best-seller lists. I couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you!
Did I meet all my goals this year? Hell, no. Not even close. I didn’t meet a single deadline for Striking Distance, caught between compulsive perfectionism and the emotional difficulty of writing a story that deals with such gritty and complicated material. I didn’t lose 50 pounds, though I did make it to the gym — sometimes. I didn’t overcome my absolute loathing for cooking — and I’m pretty sure I never will. In fact, it’s really impossible to overstate how much I hate to cook.
But some things I did do better than in the past.
I consciously made time for a “weekend” — hey, other people have them — and used that time for fun. Benjamin and I visited a number of museums and state historical sites, including Bent’s Fort near Las Animas (below). We also hiked at beautiful Mud Lake and in Rocky Mountain National Park (above), enjoying some fresh air and time away from computers and work. I saw my first wild moose after living in this state all my life. No, none of this helped me meet deadlines, but it helped me recover from writing Striking Distance and enabled me to enjoy my life more. By the time Benjamin left to go abroad, we both agreed it had made for a very memorable summer.
Lesson learned: You can’t have memories if you don’t actively make them.
It was a year of experimentation on so many levels, and I learned a lot about myself. I tried all kinds of new techniques to help myself write faster, ultimately coming up with one that enables me to be more creative and worry about the perfectionism part later. I also played around with different schedules for getting to the gym, a process that proved to me that, deep in my heart, I’d rather skip the gym and go hiking. And I would — if all my favorite trails weren’t still closed due to the floods. Thus, I am resigned to unenthusiastic trips to the gym.
I also had to face months without Benjamin at home. That might seem silly to some of you, but the whole empty nest thing is a real challenge for me. It’s not that I just want company; I want my kids’ company. Facing a Christmas with one son overseas was tough. I found it hard to get into the spirit of the season at all and probably wouldn’t have given a fig for Christmas if it hadn’t been for Alec and his girlfriend, who helped me find new ways to reconnect with the holiday. I will give myself credit for taking hold of those opportunities, rather than pouting my way through box after box of Puffs.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I take New Year’s pretty seriously. It’s never been a party holiday for me. I usually spend it with close friends or my kids doing something quiet and focusing on the aspects of myself and my life that I want to improve.
For 2014, I’m going to focus on acceptance.
I made a big decision this month and decided to spend two months next year visiting Benjamin and reuniting with friends and family in Denmark and Sweden. I’d been waiting for the magic moment when I would be thin and rich and caught up on book deadlines. And then it hit me rather out of the blue that I should probably make this trip now, while I and all my friends and family are still alive in case that magic moment never comes. I bought the tickets that very morning.
So, imperfect and low on funds as I may be, I am nevertheless heading off to Europe for a trip that will include an event in Paris and possibly a signing in Madrid, in addition to lots of time with Benjamin and my old friend and family in Denmark, where I feel so at home.
One thing became pretty clear to me this year amid all this experimentation and trial and error: Now is all I have, and I need to do what’s important to me today. That means writing the books I want to write, being with the people whose company I enjoy, going to the places I want to go.
Oh, yes, I’m still going to try to live a healthier life style with more exercise and less sugar, but I’m not going to do it with any goal in mind apart from feeling better, being healthier and more energetic. I will never look like my 30-year-old self again, so I need to quit trying. My 30-year-old self was the self that fell off the mountain. She had things pretty easy before that moment when idiocy met gravity.
Like I said, 2014 is ultimately about acceptance — accepting who I am today, deciding what I want out of life, and then taking action to accomplish those things.
A friend told me shortly before she passed on that her 80s were the happiest years of her life because she truly quit giving a shit what other people thought about her or what she did. She quit doing things that people expected her to do and started doing what she wanted to do. We should all take her advice now and not wait for our 80s.
Also — and this may seem contradictory — I want to spend more time putting my life into service for others through volunteering somehow, perhaps at the homeless shelter or a women’s shelter. I’ve considered volunteering at the county jail, too, where I would love to work with women inmates, perhaps starting a reading group. I’ve always believe we live up to our fullest potential when we live for our fellow human beings. As my kids move on with their own lives, I need to find meaningful ways to give. That desire to nurture is, I think, part of what makes having an empty nest so difficult, at least for me.
I also want to spend more time with my fellow Colorado authors — Jenn, Courtney Milan, Thea Harrison, Tara Janzen and others. There’s nothing like an afternoon with them to make me laugh. Somewhat immoderately and loudly.
Having said all of that, I am still experimenting with plotting and writing techniques and am excited to see if I can meet my goal of writing at least THREE full-length novels and a novella this year. I’d like to work a historical into the mix soon, too. My biggest challenge as an author has always been productivity. Whereas some writers can crank 3,000 words a day or even more, I have plenty of days where I managed to write only 500 words. I intend to change this without sacrificing quality.
So what’s does all of this mean for you as a reader?
Right now, I’m plotting my next I-Team book — probably Holly’s story. So far it’s going well. I hope to have a draft written before I leave for Europe so that you can get it late in 2014 or early 2015.
I also want to start a new contemporary series set in a Colorado mountain town — not a sweet town, but a real Colorado mountain town with its marijuana shops, old hippies, rednecks, ranchers, miners, powder hounds, rock climbers, Buddhist ex-record execs, hunters, and ordinary folk.
I am excited for this coming year!
What was the most memorable part of 2013 for you? And what goals do you have for 2014?