It’s bad enough I seem to only write these blogs once a year but now I’m over a week late getting it done. Put it down to information overload or the general fatigue of the years piling on, but better late than not at all (depending on how you view these essays.)
Well, 2023 was, for me at least, a significant upgrade on the year before and the year before that and, I guess, the year before that, too. It was certainly a year filled with travel and a degree of success in my writing career. There were some low points but they hardly took the thrill out of the high ones. I know that lots of people found the year hard—between inflation and the state of the world or their personal losses—and my heart frequently has and continues to go out to you.
However, having said that, this is my blog and I’ll cheer if I want to.
Travel came in three big batches (a several small ones, too).
The first big trip was to Mexico, one of my favorite countries, for the first time since 2019. We spent five days in late February in Oaxaca City, sampling some of the best cuisine Mexico has to offer, interspersed with long walks and a little sight-seeing, then it was off to Puerto Escondido for two weeks on the beach. The town had changed a bit in the four years since we were last there, a bit noisier, a bit busier but there was plenty of good seafood, lots of surf, sand and sun, and the trip to the lagoon was, as ever, an oasis of calm and beauty. We divided our time between an apartment farther down the beach, which was nice if a little shabby and with too many stairs to the front door, and one of our favorite little hotels, Hotelito Swiss Oasis, right on the main beach.
The second big trip was a western swing. First stop was Winnipeg to attend NASFic, (North American Science Fiction convention, held in the years World Con is held outside North America). It was not the best organized convention I’d ever been to, in fact, probably the worst, but it was my first out of Ottawa since the before times and it was great to see so many old friends. It was especially nice because I got to launch my new science fiction novel, The Passion of Ivan Rodriguez, published by Tyche Books. The book had plenty of advance praise from fellow writers and received a very positive review in Publishers Weekly, that you can read here.
After Winnipeg (and a three-day sojourn back in Ottawa) it was off to Vancouver Island to visit old friends and then on to Calgary to see family, friends and attend the 10th annual When Words Collide writing convention, where a second launch was staged. We had been back west once during COVID but this was the most ambitious trip. Of course, I wound up getting the virus though I barely had any symptoms and they lasted only 2 days.
When we returned home, one of the first things we did was to decide to sell our condo and become renters again. This was part of a long-term plan though circumstances forced us to move it up a little. There were some health issues that may prove serious in the medium term as well as some financial considerations because of upcoming major repairs to the building. In any case, it didn’t really look like things were going to happen for us, as there was little interest shown in the first two months it was on the market. We even thought of taking it off MLS in mid-October but our agent persuaded us to hang in there despite a planned trip to Europe which started with a quick jaunt to Spain on October 18th.
We arrived in Madrid during one of the biggest rainstorms in years, with floods along the coast and in low-lying cities. It had abated by evening and we had a pleasant evening out in Barajas, a nice little enclave near the airport. The next morning, we flew off to Granada to spend several days with our good friends, Violet Malan and Paul Musselman. We stayed at their place and toured the plazas and tapas bars of the city and, as well, took an exciting for me, harrowing for Liz, drive up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. We were just in time to see the first dusting of snow on the heights and had a lovely time, climbing through the villages, shopping and enjoying a fabulous lunch. On our own time, we toured the Alhambra, much more pleasant in the cool of October than during the heat of early August when we visited a few years ago.
From there, we flew off to London via Barcelona. We didn’t stay over but our luggage did for 48 hours, requiring a significant shopping trip in London as we replaced clothing and toiletries before our bags finally arrived. Vueling even covered about a third of our expenses. It is a cheap airline but hardly a bargain in our case.
Regardless, we spent a pleasant five days in South Kensington, visiting parks and museums and taking in a show, the ever-hilarious Noises Off. We were supposed to go to another show but had worn ourselves out and gave it a miss. At least we had bought tickets so we made a contribution to the arts, without actually having to get ourselves off the sofa. The next day we headed off to Deal, the town on the Channel coast where we lived for 2 months in 2017. We had a marvelous time dining and, yes, dancing, with our friends, Carol and Geoff Stickler, before Liz returned to London to visit her daughter Susan and her partner, Hugh, while I headed to Paris to research my next two Max Anderson mystery novels.
Imagine our shock, when the next day, we received an offer on our condo. It was a little low but we countered and within a couple of days we had a deal we could all live with. Everything was done on-line or by email with Liz in London and me in Paris. Having sold our condo with a closing date in early December, we had to find a place to live, rent it, arrange a move, massively downsize and all that jazz, all while still in London (I had returned to spend the final fabulous days with Susan, Hugh and their family of four children).
Back to Canada on November 8th, taking possession of the apartment on the 15th and moving the following week was pretty hectic – so much so that we went off the first weekend of December to a writing retreat at the home of Rob Sawyer and Carolyn Clink. We signed all the papers before we left and wrapped up the final details after we returned with 36 hours to spare before closing.
December was spent settling in, further downsizing and preparing for Christmas which we spent in Hamilton with Steve, Diana and the three boys, James, Alex and Finn. A pleasant end to a hectic year.
I mentioned the publication of my SF novel in July but I also released the third Max Anderson mystery, The Glare of Truth, in August as an indie publication. I’ve already got a good start on the fourth, tentatively titled, The Risen Sun, which I hope to have out in mid-summer. I also sold a novella, Carter’s Refugio, to Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact, one of the leading SF markets in the USA. I finished a couple of other short stories as well, though they are still seeking a good home.
What is a writer if not a reader as well. During 2023, I finished 71 books, ranging in length from 71 (poetry) to 608 (science fiction) pages. Mysteries were a mainstay with 30 completed books, while science fiction and non-fiction each tallied 13 (a big increase from the 4 the previous year). Eight mainstream fiction and 7 books of poetry rounded out my reading. As for what stood out for me in each category:
Mystery – Pilot that Knows the Waters by N.L. Holmes
Science Fiction – The House of Saints by Derek Kunsken and Africa Risen (a short story anthology)
Non-Fiction – Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta, Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake and Ways of Meaning by Jeremy Lent (it was a particularly rich year here)
Mainstream Fiction – Yellowface by R.F. Kuang and Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Poetry – The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
I’m happy to say that another of my big accomplishments of the year was reconnecting to some old friends, many of whom I haven’t seen or even talked to in over a decade. That was nice and I count those moments of renewed friendship among the best of the past year. I look forward to many more in the coming year (which will include lots of travel to both coasts of Canada, plus The Philippines and Thailand) and lots and lots of writing and reading.
That’s it until next time. Here is a picture to say good-bye to 2023 and hello to catching the wave to new adventures.