I used to be a resolutions person, but then I realized I set the same goals every year, my failure to achieve them setting me up for despair by the end of January. Now, amid a pandemic, my older self is thankful I survived 2021, despite not losing any weight or landing a publishing deal.

For me, the phrase “clean slate” gives me pause. Do I need to grab the chalk and bullet point my aspirations on the black surface, once again hoping to accomplish them, dreading the disappointment lurking in the days/weeks/months ahead.

But what if I equated a clean slate to a blank page? I love a blank page; waiting for the keystrokes of a laptop, the touch of a pen, the splash of color from an artist’s paint brush. Nothing brings me more joy than the site of a blank page. I can’t wait to cover the white space with words unleashing the story brewing in my head, bringing previously imagined characters to life, striding into an alternate universe full of possibilities.

Since I’ve never suffered from writer’s block, it occurred to me my clean slate simply needed a story. My story. The more I imagined what the new year could bring; opportunities waiting to be embraced, new friendships to be made, old friendships to be rekindled, and stories, oh the stories I could share: Past, Present, Future.

The definition of a clean slate is “the absence of restraints or commitments.” However, we all know life comes with responsibilities. But what if we treat our obligations as characters in our story? While the new year was forced to carry over the pandemic, what if we imagine hope with each new day?

Every morning I’m greeted by my black cat Halle, who demands treats and petting before I’ve had a cup of coffee, a trait that annoys me greatly. But when I started thinking about what a great character my frustrating cat would make, I saw her in a different light. Now renamed, Miss Kitty, Halle is a character in, Redneck Ranch (2023), the first novel of my Stoneybrook mystery series. Using Halle as a creative springboard for other animal characters, Redneck Ranch now has several creatures to compliment the humans. I’m especially fond of Buckeye, the hen who thinks she’s a rooster.

Since I still haven’t won the lottery or landed a publishing deal, I stuck with my day job. Luckily, I’m self-employed and work from home, so I control my schedule. Sometimes, I let the commitments of my life detour me from writing. There’s work, laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning … the list is long. But then again, a story lying within each chore. I’m short and plump, and need a stepstool to reach the bottom of my new washer. Exasperated at first, I now see the humor of a being a height challenged female and can’t wait to add this attribute to one of my characters.

For me, characters can be found in everyday life, especially in your family and friends. In my current novel, Peril in Paradise, which I began writing in 2008, I came to see myself in my heroine, Clara. Clara’s daughter is murdered, and long before I knew the pain of losing a child, I’d managed to capture the devastation her daughter’s death has on Clara. And then, during the numerous rewrites, Clara’s best friend, Devin, became a culmination of all the women who supported me after my son Derrick died in 2017.

For me, a clean slate is simply an opportunity to delve deeper into my story and ask what’s important as I toddle into my golden years. What accomplishments do I want to achieve? How many books can write over the next thirty-five years? Why not a publishing deal?

Sharpening my writing skills is definitely at the top of the list. In 2021 I finished book two, Malice in Mazatlan, in my Mexico Mayhem suspense series, and worked several book fairs pitching book one, Peril in Paradise, along with other books by fabulous authors.

Encouragement from readers for independent writers is worth more than words can say. Praise helps writers wade through the struggle of bringing characters to life, tightening a story until it screams “uncle”, agonizing over every undiscovered error revealed after the novel is printed. Supporting authors helps spur on those imaginative mysteries, romances, and suspense novels, which keep readers up through the night flipping pages until The End!

Published by Kimila Kay

Kimila Kay lives in Donald, Oregon along with her husband, Randy, her adorable Boston Terrier Maggie, and a feisty black cat named Halle. Her professional accomplishments include three anthologized essays in the CUP OF COMFORT series. In three separate contests, PERIL IN PARADISE, has won two first place awards and a third-place award in the romantic suspense category. Kimila is currently a member of a writing critique group, Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA), Willamette Writers, and Windtree Press. PERIL IN PARADISE is the first novel in a planned cross-cultural series, which will include Malice in Mazatlán, Vanished in Vallarta, Chaos in Cabo, and Lost in Loreto.

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