My husband and I have just returned from two weeks at a lovely beach in Barra de Potosí, just south of Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast. Fourteen miles of clean, uncongested, undeveloped beach! Heaven! We saw whales!

We have been coming to this beach every January for some time. This year, the casitas where we always stay (Solocito) had a temporary problem with their Net reception, so my New Year’s Resolution to withdraw from the Net each day was made frustratingly easy. (We could get and send email, but not much else.)

I read/edited This Bright Darkness (The Next Novel) each morning while here: spent lovely, quiet mornings working to the sound of the crashing surf, broken by reflective walks along the beach. This is an ideal way to edit. We return every year, so I’m going to aim to have a MS in hand next year.

I also read a great deal (and yes, in a hammock).

For research: Ladies in Waiting; From the Tudors to the Present Day, by Anne Somerset (which made me think English history was far more randy, violent and repressive than that of the French), and A History of Mental Retardation by R.C. Scheerenberger (an amazingly interesting account).

For pleasure, I very very much enjoyed reading The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. What a poet! Was a master of similie! Here are a few — only a few — examples:

As we drove to and fro, we listened to Elmore Leonard’s Out of Sight on tape. He’s such a master. I think he only gets better and better.

She got up slowly and swayed towards me in a tight black dress that didn’t reflect any light. She had long thighs and she walked with a certain something I hadn’t often seen in bookstores.

Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.

His office had the musty smell of years of routine.

I’ve also discovered and very much enjoy the ByLiner series of e-book essays. The two I read:

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life by Anne Patchett. I’d recently read (rather: read and been knocked out by) Patchett’s novel State of Wonder, so I found her account of her writing life and process particularly interesting. A few quotes:

Why is it that we understand that playing the cello will require work but we relegate writing to the magic of inspiration?  . . . If a person of any age picked up the cello for the first time and said, “I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!” you would pity her delusion, but beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker.

I did – didn’t you?

Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art, you must master the craft.

Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment: The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap.

I got better at closing the gap between my hand and my head by clocking in the hours, stacking up the pages. Somewhere in all my years of practice—I don’t know where exactly—I arrived at the art.

It was Patchett who inspired me to look into Chandler, a journey well-rewarded.

The other ByLiner title was Advice to Virgins, by Amy Tan. Wonderful!

I think the ByLiner series is a particularly brilliant use of the new technology.

I also began reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m usually somewhat resistant to magic in a novel, but Morgenstern sets the stage very well.

Here is one of many photos I took, inspired by the light at sunset:

Two weeks didn’t seem like quite enough. Adios, ocean! Adios, beach! Hasta el proximo.