Last weekend, I went to visit The World’s Cutest and Most Wonderful Grandbaby 😍 (and her parents of course), but a weekend away from home does not equal a vacation. A writer never rests! So I got up at my usual time, met up with my morning writing crew, and did what I was supposed to do: wrote! I was there for three mornings and tried three different writing spaces, so I thought I’d show you what it looks like when a writer (at least this writer) travels.
Morning 1: the kitchen table. Good table space, awful chair. My butt is spoiled with my ultra comfy office chair at home and did not approve of a hard kitchen chair.
Morning 2: couch/coffee table. My behind was happier this morning (very soft and comfy couch) but my back not so much. A low coffee table is not ideal despite excellent table space, and my back threatened to quit if I didn’t move. So I did. I don’t wanna be a spineless person after all 😂
Morning 3: the couch+couch cushion desk. Again the couch is very comfy for my behind, but the cushion…well, it was at least moveable so I could lean back and put it on my lap. That was tolerable at least.
Verdict: I think morning 3 wins after all because the couch is comfier than the kitchen chair any day. But also: being awarded with sunny morning baby smiles and soft baby cuddles make everything worth it. I’d even sit on the kitchen chair by the coffee table if it meant I could start every morning with a happy baby smile 🙂
Is it just me or did January last four thousand years this year? But we can finally put it behind us and enjoy February. I like February; it’s short and sweet, and both my husband and daughter have birthdays in February.
But before we do that, let’s look at my January. Don’t expect anything too exciting, though, considering I spend 98% of my time in my apartment 😀
Tell me, how was your January? Did you do something (under the circumstances) fun?
I continued my morning writing habits in January. I stumble out of bed before 6am and wrap myself in my warm, fluffy robe and spend 3 hours with my writing crew getting things done. I love it, even if it means getting out of bed at too-early-o’clock.
January has been mostly gray and rainy in my part of the world, so whenever the sun’s been out, I’ve done my best to soak up some light. Like having a cup of tea on the balcony.
At the beginning of the month, we had a bit of a drama moment in my building. There was a fire on the balcony of my neighbor’s neighbor. Something electrical. So we evacuated as the fire department arrived, but the fire was already put out when they got here, so we could return to our apartment pretty quickly.
On another sunny day, we decided to take the car and go to the ocean. We prepared vacuum flasks with tea (for me) and coffee (for the hubby) and went for a walk along the shore. It was cold and windy, but it was lovely. This bridge, Öresundsbron, connects Sweden to Denmark.
And since we’re talking about January in Sweden, we also had snow. Not a lot, so it disappeared as quickly as it came.
I miss the food from Malaysia, so I’m slowly learning to cook the things I miss the most. Like gyoza. It was the first time I tried making it, and they turned out great. The filling was made of all the things I love; pork, ginger, garlic, spring onions, sesame oil. And I made a yummy dipping sauce to go with it, too. I was very happy with the results and my mouth is watering when I look at this picture.
I hate face masks, but one good thing about them is that they keep my face warm when I’m outside and it’s freezing.
I photographed every pink sky I could find because I’m addicted to them.
I listened to these three albums a lot. They’re all great in their own way ❤️
And finally: even though I’ve complained a lot about January, something awesome happened. We bought a house! A huge house on a big piece of land in the countryside. That means no more noisy neighbors, no drunken people outside my window in the middle of the night, no train noises, no more living next to the Swedish Customs office (who tests the freaking sirens on their cars at all hours whenever they drive out). Just birds and the creek behind the house, and the (distant) neighbor’s cows. I can live with that! So come April, this fireplace will be mine. I’m so happy! 💃🍾🥂
2020 started slow for me, writing wise. Moving across the world, making a home in a new city in Sweden where I’ve never lived before, finding new routines, took longer than I expected. I had a lovely office, but somehow it wasn’t right. And then the pandemic hit and gave us all anxiety and heartache, and that sure didn’t help. Because of the pandemic, I also had to move a second time; we had no choice because my landlady decided to sell the house. So after living only for six months in the house we moved to a small-ish apartment instead.
And here I found my stride. I don’t have an office; we have an open floor plan and my desk is sitting between the kitchen and the living room area, and I love it here. And at the end of June, I fount my morning writing crew and started getting up to write at 6am every day. As a result, the second half of 2020 has been very productive for me and I already have 4 books on JMS Books release schedule for 2021. But the slow start made this into a slow-ish year for me, book release wise. At least compared to 2019.
Let’s take a look:
I’ve released four new stories this year, five if you count the super-short freebie continuation to 9 Willow Street. I’ve released one box set containing previously released Cinnamon Eyes and Promise Me We’ll Be Okay. And two of my stories are featured in two anthologies released by JMS Books this year: Unexpected Christmas in A Decade of Gay Romance and Always You in 2020 Top Ten Gay Romance.
It hasn’t been a bad year, especially not when you take everything that’s happened into consideration. But when I compare myself to 2019 me, I’m a bit disappointed. Even if I wrote in my 2019 wrap-up that “And maybe, we can all agree that this many releases in one year is a bit…excessive?” It felt excessive then, but now…not so much. 😁
That being said, I’m happy that I’ve found a routine that works for me, especially after this weird and difficult year. I even managed to write a book about cheating (the big no-no topic of romance stories) that was mostly well received, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that 🙂
I’m not the type who makes big over-reaching goals for myself; I usually just go with the flow, and seeing other people making goals for 1-2-3 years ahead makes me break out in hives because of stress. To each their own, and all that, but that’s not for me.
But since I want to take my author career more seriously, I decided to try this goals thing for 2021. Vague goals, but things that would be good for me. Even if not all of them are things I want to do. What do you mean, Nell? you ask.
I’ll tell you what I mean. It’s the last goal I’m not friends with. “Start a newsletter.”
Newsletters. I intensely dislike them. I don’t want my inbox spammed with unwelcome emails, and subsequently, I’ve resisted getting one of my own for several years now. Despite lots of my author friends telling me I need one because of lots of reasons that all sounds reasonable (duh!), but my personal dislike of the newsletter concept has made me stubbornly refuse. At one point, I even bought a book about newsletters, thinking it would help, but no. On the contrary, it scared me away for another year or so.
But I think I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re right. It is good for me for reasonable reasons (heh), so I grudgingly added it as one of my 2021 goals. And then I decided I’d start researching it right away, because if I procrastinate it, I’m going to come up with reasons why I shouldn’t do it, and suddenly it’s 2022 and Nell still has no newsletter.
So this morning, after my writing session, I googled some and found the following:
…and 2020. You won’t be missed. But since I want my blog to be a happy, positive space, I’m focusing on the good things of this year, number one among them is that I became a grandmother. Who can be unhappy when such a monumental thing happens? 🙂
But this post is primarily for things that happened in December. I hope you don’t expect grand adventures or travel photos from exotic locations, because December was mostly spent at home in my tiny apartment. Because you know… 😀
But let’s not talk about that now.
December was mostly a gray and dreary month, consisting of rain, rain, and more rain. But every now and then a pink sky appeared to make me happy, and whenever it did, I photographed it.
I bought myself a tea and short story advent calendar, so I spent every Sunday morning reading a short holiday story written by well-known and classic Swedish authors (and one Danish author this year) and drinking the tea that came with it. The tea and novella in the picture was for second advent. The story was on the depressing side, but it was written by one of Sweden’s most famous poets, Dan Andersson, so it was beautifully written. So I liked it, even if I prefer my stories (especially holiday ones) to be a little more uplifting.
My daughter and I always decorate our Christmas trees with a theme, and this year it was “nature” and DIY, so we had a Skype date where we made our own ornaments. I put on some Christmas music, warmed some glögg (mulled wine), and had some skumtomtar (marshmallow santas) to eat with that as we made the ornaments. This is me making gold-painted pinecones. It was lovely, and the tree turned out fantastic. But I’ll show you that later.
Speaking of DIY: I also made my own gift tags for the Christmas presents for my granddaughter. I thought How hard can it be to paint a Christmas tree? It’s an abstract green triangle, right? So I gave it my best, and the end result (not in the picture) turned out great. So great, my husband asked me to paint a Christmas card to send to his nephew, too…which I did. It was fun. But I need more practice. Lots more practice! 🙂
December 13 is Lucia Day in Sweden, and I watched it on my tablet during my morning writing session. It was a responsible, socially distant celebration, outside in the snow. It was so beautiful I couldn’t stop crying as I watched it. I can’t wait until my granddaughter is old enough to participate in the Lucia celebration. I’ll be the Gramma who sits in the front, beaming with pride, and crying my eyes out because of the beauty of the tradition.
We spent Christmas with my daughter and her family, the only people we see during the pandemic. And this is the tree; everything is DIYed, except for the lights of course. We were very happy with how it turned out. And 85% of the presents under the tree was for the 3-month old baby. Just as it should be 🙂
My daughter had bought a bunch of festive headbands. If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen me in reindeer antlers and a Christmas tree headband, but there were more. Like this one with presents 😀
Christmas Eve (that’s the day Sweden celebrates Christmas) came with sunshine and a blue sky, so we went out for a walk.
…and then we did what a lot of Swedes do on Christmas Eve: watch Donald Duck. It’s a weird Swedish tradition and if you’re curious, you can read about it here. 😀
On Christmas Day, we went back home and I set up my Christmas present on my desk: a lovely moon lamp.
And finally, New Year’s Eve, which I spent alone at home with my husband with an epic charcuterie board, bubbly, and great music.