2013 has limped to the finish line. I would love to say I have learned many profound things and have a dozen things to offer, such as words of wisdom, but I can’t guarantee you will feel like you’ve learned a thing from all I did in 2013.
What did I do? I travelled around the world several times, wrote two novels, voiced my strong opinions on live television and radio, got kissed by a massive celebrity, got a new house, overcome a serious illness, got a tattoo and still managed to be a full-time mother to four gifted boys. What did I learn? Quite a bit, actually. (I haven’t learned to take my glasses off for pics – this was taken just today)
I decided to take a look back on my top five most popular posts for the year –
I’m pleased to say, the post I did about the 56th anniversary of the Valencian flood is my most popular post of the year, outstripping every other post by a landslide. I’m pleased to say it rates highly on my blog every day. With some luck, it has grabbed enough interest for my upcoming novel on the subject, available in just a few weeks’ time.
The second and third place posts were close, with my food trips around Madrid with James Blick of Madrid Food Tour. My trip started and ended in Madrid, and having a food trip with great people and a wonderful guide is the best way to celebrate the city. I would love to say I sounded witty and charming as I drank my way around the capital, but I guess only James knows the real answer to that!
Barcelona is a challenge for me. I’ll admit I arrived with a closed mind (after an unsuccessful previous trip) but the more I did, the more I enjoyed Barcelona. The food was top-notch (always stop at the tiny hidden cheese stores), the shopping was fun and easy and the sights are amazing. I went solely for civil war info for an upcoming book, and Nick Lloyd’s Civil War guided tour was well worth the detour to Catalonia. The group I joined was a mix of those interested and those who were novices on the civil war, and you get to see a hidden Barcelona while surrounded by the main attractions and tourists on a very different journey. This tour could be well-enjoyed by everyone, and I plan on going again. Since I met Nick in May, his five-star reviews on Trip Advisor have doubled to (as of today) 262 GLOWING REVIEWS. You can’t go wrong by visiting Nick.
A personal blog that got me a lot of feedback on social media. After a big year with my oldest son’s medical conditions, I needed a little rant on the importance of being an involved parent. It fired people up, mostly people like myself who are sick of defending their choices.
It came as no surprise that this post drew attention. I don’t know many people who have visited the Valley of the Fallen, and so many came to read my (honestly, very biased) account. It’s no easy feat to get to the crypt, and I sat trough a dull visit to El Escorial before making it to the world’s biggest fascism nostalgia and picnic area. Surreal, surreal, surreal.
Special mention – WHY SPAIN? DOOMED TO FOREVER LIVE ON THE EDGE OF THE SPANISH EXPERIENCE
This post is only a week old but is already climbing the blog view charts. I spoke of my position as a ‘Spain fraud’ and it seems to be really popular. So far, no one has accused me of fraud, and Graham Hunt, the great leader of WABAS, hasn’t evicted from the group I feel lucky to be part of. Graham deserves a big thank you for all he helped me with this year, along with my book editor Sue Sharpe, Paddy at Spanish Thyme Traveller, Mark at Offside Librería, inspirational author Jason Webster, bloggers Matthew Hirtes, Molly Sears-Piccavey, Paul Read, Ali Meehan, Cat Gaa, Fiona Flores Watson, Marianne Elizabeth, Anna Kemp, Jennifer Riggins, Elle Draper, and everyone else who shared, retweeted and chatted on twitter, plus everyone in WABAS for the always entertaining conversations.
That’s a lot of blog views! Thanks!
One massive event that made it on my blog was my research trip to Spain in May. Fifteen days and nights of burning the candles at both ends, touristing, drinking, talking, exploring, drinking, reading, shopping, drinking and middle of the night strolls got me soooo much goodness for my upcoming novels. I love Madrid more now, thanks to food and bullfighting. I am now busting to write a war book based in Gothic Barcelona and the wilds of Teruel. Cuenca reminded me why it was such a focal point in my first Spain-based novel and makes an appearance in the second. Segovia, Avila and Toledo were interesting small town additions, but of course, Valencia is once again the jewel in the crown. Everywhere else in Spain is diminished once you’ve loved Valencia.
In July, while spending way too much time watching the Tour de France while ill (and a cycling tour through the French Alps cancelled due to an injury), I finished writing Violent Daylight, a book I am hugely proud of. I never anticipated writing a sequel to Night Wants to Forget, but Canna Medici has a life of her own. The third installment, Luminous Colours of Dusk will be out in 2014. I spend a lot of time talking about all things Spain, but my Canna-lovers hang in there and follow me anyway, as I hand out Canna related reads. While you are waiting between book two and three, I am posting the Canna prequel Fiction Friday, which has proven popular. I’m glad Violent Daylight was as liked as the first Canna novel as sequels can prove tricky, but writing Canna is a breeze.
July, August and September were filled with boats for me, with the America’s Cup in San Francisco. While my husband worked with Prada Luna Rossa Challenge here in Auckland earlier in the year, my need to relocate was unnecessary (though, Luna Rossa was the reason for my move to Valencia, and looked how that worked out!). The boat raced in July and August, which was a nice break from winter in New Zealand, though the racing results were predictable. Back in Auckland for the finals between Team New Zealand and Oracle, I felt rushed off my feet with daily visits to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron starting at 5am. But I got my groove back doing radio and tv interviews for the morning shows about the event while we enjoyed the camaraderie, even if the event didn’t go in a good direction (and having my car stolen didn’t help!)
Hot on the heels of that let down was a pick-me-up, another overseas trip, just a short hop to Brisbane to meet Ricky Martin. HOLY HELL, what an experience, well above expectations. I took in Brisbane and the Gold Coast with my brother, and met all new friends while front row centre to the best live show I’ve ever seen, and a very memorable backstage encounter as well.
As November came to a close, so did a years worth of writing and researching for Vengeance in the Valencian Water, my best book to date. I have long wanted to write about 50’s Valencia, and now it has become a reality. With the first paperback copy now in my hands, it will be available in hard copy and Kindle on January 24, two months later than planned after my son’s extended illness in winter. The book has all your favourite (or hated) characters from Blood in the Valencian Soil, with Luna coping with her cycling doping past, Cayetano dealing with his new life while juggling a bullfighting career, the baby stealing scandal under Franco’s reign, and the Valencian flood which uncovers a huge secret and almost kills a family member in two different time periods. I will be starting a Q&A in the new year.
As 2013 comes to a close, I feel exhausted after all that has gone on, but of course, the most important thing is my family. With my oldest son making it through another year with multiple life-threatening health problems, and months of fighting pneumonia with him 24 hours a day, everything pales in comparison. Fighting the good fight is not new for us as our oldest son recently turned ten, but still, when he falls ill (such as his Christmas bout of pneumonia), everything takes a break. My four sons are all gifted, which isn’t as easy as it sounds, as little minds can be hard to exercise when they are reaching out a decade beyond their physical age. My husband is a sportsman who has suffered three injuries this year, and it makes one take a long look and gives perspective. It’s been quite a year.
Resolutions for 2014? I wondered whether I should bother. Rather than pretending to make profound life changes, I decided to eliminate things instead –
Stop pretending I will lose my most recent 10kgs. They aren’t going away and fighting them makes me hate myself. Less worry, more coffees and treats. If I’m big, I’m big.
Stop letting the vultures in. You know who they are, the people who spread negativity. You can argue with an ignorant misogynist asshole all you like, but they won’t become enlightened. I don’t just block people who inflame my will to kill, I also block those taking swipes at people I like and respect.
Stop worrying about my makeup. The people I see on a daily basis wear none, and yet I stress if my hair and makeup isn’t perfect. I got through Spain without my routine, so surely I can do it on a regular basis. I’ll start saving the creams and powders for when the wrinkles really start to set in.
Stop having to volunteer for tasks I don’t want to do. I do a lot of volunteering, mostly with sports activities and special events for children. I can’t do everything and I won’t give my time where it’s not appreciated. I have books to write!
Stop wondering whether people like my books. I like them and plenty of others do too. If a certain someone didn’t, that’s not my problem. As the saying goes – what others think of you is none of your business.
Stop stressing about blogging! I’m not going to commit to anything. I want to do more posts on Spain and Valencia, and I will – but not a regular commitment. Rather, you will be getting large fact and photo laden posts, rather than short bursts. It’s just easier.
To quote an animated turtle in a kids film – yesterday is history, the future is a mystery, and today is a gift, that is why it’s called the present.