New Year Rituals

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. In 2019, for my first post of the new year, I wrote a blog titled “Taking Stock” to share the way I spend every January first. The ritual hasn’t changed, but some of the results certainly have.

My habit is to go over the records I’ve kept during the previous year while watching the Rose Parade. I tally business income and expenses for the year and record a few additional totals, such as how many books I read during the year—169 for 2021 (previous totals have been around 120). This time around, none were for research. All were for pleasure and a great many of them were comfort rereads. I reread a couple of series in order, including #3-52 of J. D. Robb’s In Death books. I listened to #1 and #2 as audiobooks at the end of 2020 and I’m reading #53 now. #54 comes out in February.

How did I have time for all that reading? Easy. I wasn’t writing.

As in 2019, the financial numbers told me I earned far less than I once did through my writing. In fact, My “business” is going to lose money, tax-wise, when April 15 comes around. In part, that’s because I invested a fair amount of cash in 2021 in bringing out self-published titles. Paying for professional cover design was a major expense. I also used the services of a professional editor for I Kill People for a Living and The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries. Money well spent, but it ate up a lot of my income from previous publications. So did the purchase of a new iPad.

Word to the wise for all you fledgling writers out there: unless you are lucky enough to hit bestseller lists, and even then, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to “live on your royalties” once you stop selling new novels. It’s a nice dream, but in reality that income isn’t likely to provide more than the proverbial “pin money” in your retirement.

Back at the start of 2019, I’d just sent my editor the manuscript of A View to a Kilt (the last Liss MacCrimmon mystery, although I didn’t yet know that) and I was about halfway through the very rough draft of the third Deadly Edits mystery, A Fatal Fiction. I wrote one more in that series (in 2019-20; published as Murder, She Edited in 2021), but by the end of 2019 I had seen the writing on the wall as far as more contracts with a traditional publisher were concerned and was actively working on the first book I intended to self publish, The Life of a Plodder.

In 2020, I self published updated editions of several previously published children’s books and original editions of two more that I wrote years ago. By this time last year, I had started to appreciate the independence of independent publishing.

One thing has definitely changed. In that 2019 blog I wrote: “I can’t not write. The ideas keep coming. Characters demand their voices. Plot twists beg to be explored. What I take away from this annual exercise is that I’m still hanging in there as a working midlist author. As long as people keep reading my books, I’ll keep writing them.”

By 2021, the only original writing I was doing consisted of these posts, one short story, and one novella. The last two were taken in large part from a failed book proposal, so while I finally finished them both in 2021, most of the creativity took place pre-2020.

So why do I spend the first day of the new year on statistics, aside from knowing I’ll eventually need most of those numbers in order to file my income tax? It gives me a sense of how much (or how little) I’ve accomplished and what my goals ought to be for the new year. And it forces me to take a hard look at whether I’m satisfied with the status quo.

Odd as it seems, even to me, after producing seventy-plus books in the course of the last forty-plus years, I am quite content with what I see. We aren’t wealthy, but we have income from Social Security, IRAs, and Sandy’s jigsaw-puzzle-table-making business. We own our house and two vehicles outright and can afford food, utilities, and books. If the IRS eventually decides my writing-related efforts are now a “hobby” (as in no profit for five years in a row) I can live with that.

These days, the song lyric “Don’t worry. Be happy.” makes a lot more sense to me than it once did.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at and A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.


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1 Response to New Year Rituals

  1. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    I am impressed with your organization! I’m afraid if I gathered up all my stubs that are tucked away in my desk, I might be tempted to set everything on fire, including the desk. Writing is not for sissies, that’s for sure.

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