The Bucket List

Zoë Sharp

When I read Dusty’s post from yesterday, about getting out of your own way and allowing your creativity to do what it really wanted to do, it struck a bit of a chord. I’d just been reading the latest issue of Bike magazine, which had a piece from world record-breaking professional traveller and adventurer, Nick Sanders, about ‘How To Jack It All In’. Nick listed the six most important factors as:

     Know what you want to do

     Life is about timing

     Embrace the unknown

     Simplify your life

     Recite five times a day…

          I don’t know anything

          I must listen to clever people

          I am confident this can be done

          I will never give up

          Tape on your handlebars (well, this is a motorcycle magazine) a quote from Albert Einstein: “I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism; have brought me to my ideas.”

     Change the way you think

And if you want to know the specifics, you’ll just have to read the mag, but it sounds simple, doesn’t it? Who among us hasn’t wanted to jack it all in and disappear?

My usual get-away-from-it-all dream involves boats. I was brought up on boats. I love the sea. I get all misty-eyed whenever I’m near it, and the sight of anyone setting out on a yacht makes me yearn to go with them. I was an astro-navigator back in the days before every man and his dog had a handheld GPS. My father recently gave me his sextant, which is something I shall treasure.

So, first on my bucket list (things to do before you kick the bucket, just in case anybody’s wondering) would be:

Sail in the British Virgin Islands

Arriving in strange places from the water is such a different experience to arriving by any other means, that the idea of exploring this fascinating group of islands by yacht has a very special appeal.

Ride a motorcycle around Iceland

Iceland is an amazing country, sparsely populated, and still wild and beautiful. Many of what are official roads are little more than unsurfaced flattened tracks across barren arctic desert. Sounds wonderful to me.


Visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Really, this should have come top of my list, because I’ve been fascinated by Angkor Wat ever since I first heard about it. An entire civilisation that disappeared back into the jungle. At its height in the 13th century, Angkor was the most extensive urban complex in the world.  Now, it’s the most stunning ruin.

Ride across the Rockies by train

This is something I’ve had a fancy to do since we were in Toronto for Bouchercon a few years ago, and saw the trains pulling out on their way to Vancouver. Of course, it’s the sort of trip you’d have to do in the best possible style…

Listen to real flamenco in Spain

As an indifferent classical guitarist in my youth, I loved the sound and colour and drama of flamenco. I’d love to go and experience the whole thing in its proper environment.

See the Northern Lights

There isn’t much else to say about this spectacular natural phenomenon, apart from the fact that it’s probably the closest we can get to seeing the kind of images that are being sent back by the Hubble space telescope, but from earth.

Then, of course, I also have a writing bucket list. That sounds strange, I know. After all, I am already a writer, but I write within the specific genre of crime thrillers, and although I thoroughly enjoy it, that doesn’t mean I don’t have hankerings to write other things as well.


Not spaceships and aliens kind of sci-fi, particularly, but near-future stuff. The kind of stuff that takes the ‘what if’ of our everyday world, and goes with it just one step further into the unknown. I can see the way rules and regulations are going, with risk assessements and everybody afraid of liability and accepting responsibility, and I SO want to take a swipe at that.


No, I’m not talking vampires, or werewolves, but something that delves deeper into the human psyche. And I’ve no excuses for not getting on with this, really. I have an idea that I think would really fly, either as a novel or even a screenplay, but I just need the right shove to get on with it.


I love history. The turn of the last century, with the advent of the motor car, the aeroplane, and a world both opened up and torn apart by conflict and technological change. Or the Elizabethan period, with its intrigue and complex politics and betrayals. Or the lawless London docklands. It just cries out to be the backdrop to a novel, another larger-than-life character in its own right. So, what’s stopping me? Research, in a word. Now, I really enjoy research, but the prospect of having to check everything simply in order to get your protagonist out of bed in the morning and walk them down the street is a daunting one.


Graphic novels have always been there, but recently they seem to have exploded in popularity, and the crossover of crime writers who are producing graphic novels has increased dramatically. I’d love to do it, but the truth is, I have no idea how to go about the process…

That’s it for my twin bucket lists, I think. Of course, as soon as I’ve posted this, loads more things will undoubtedly occur to me. So, what’s on your bucket list? And what’s on your writing bucket list, too?

This week’s Word of the Week is louche, meaning shady, sinister, shifty or disreputable.

32 thoughts on “The Bucket List

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    So interesting, Z, Ankor Wat is on the top of my bucket list, too. Let's go!!

    And speaking of the supernatural (because isn't it?) I would LOVE to see you write something supernatural. I'll shove you on that one.

    Not enough coffee yet to remember the rest of my own bucket list. I'll check back in when properly caffeinated.

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    Writing bucket list: long term would be making my crime fiction newsletter Premeditated a success. Short term would be finishing September issue and making October issue fantastic since it will be in all the bags at Bouchercon.
    Life bucket list …. go to Ireland and Rome. Mmm, amass enough left over money so that when I do kick the bucket, the local library will be renamed in my honor. 🙂

  3. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alexandra – you're on! To both.

    Angkor is just so staggering in scale, it demands to be seen.

    Can't wait to read your fully caffeinated bucket list…;-]

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi PK

    Worthy ambitions – I'll keep my fingers crossed for the next issues of Premeditated. (Great title, by the way.)

    I've just got this lovely picture of this impressive stone plaque above a fine civic building with 'the PK the Bookeemonster Memorial Library' carved into it ;-]

    Ireland is gorgeous, but I think I only saw the grubby bits of Rome when I was there a few years ago (and there are a LOT of grubby bits). Pompeii, on the other hand, looks absolutely amazing.

  5. pari noskin taichert

    Travel bucket list?
    If Tibet were free, I'd go there in a heart beat.
    That's the main one.
    (BTW: I worked on a sailboat in the VI for about a week that went around both the US and British islands. They were gorgeous.)

    Writing bucket list?
    I'm doing it right now. Writing what I want to write.

  6. Louise Ure

    Funny, I had this conversation with a friend just this week and told her that I didn't have anything on my bucket list. But that's probably just a reflection of where my head is right now.

  7. Dudley Forster

    I have to have 3 bucket lists, the first holds things I a grateful for so I don’t start feeling sorry for myself when I open the second. So in the first bucket are my kids, grandkids, and wife who has put up with me for 33 years. A job that pays the bills, most of the time, and gives me time to write.

    The second bucket is full of all kinds of things; Take my wife to New England when the leaves change, take the whole family on a cruise, a Photo safari to Africa, go to Churchill when the polar bears are there and spend thrity days exploring Australia. Then there are the places I want to go and just sit, try to absorb some elements of life, this doesn’t include airports. Places like New York, Boston, Chicago, Tony Hillerman’s 4 corners, and even though I spent three years there as an Air Force brat, a lot of places of the UK, even after the culture killing decimalization.

    I have a premade answer for my writers bucket. It is a list my oldest daughter created about her goals as a writer (she already has a contract so the whole publish thing is checked off her list, but not mine), To attend a conference as a guest author; To catch a stranger reading my book; Enough of a money flow to pay off our debt; A review in Publisher's Weekly; To get a letter from someone who was touched by my stories. To have three books in print; To go to a convention as a published writer, B’con; Thrillerfest, etc..; A blurb from one of my favorite authors on the back of my book. I know a lot of you have experienced most, if not all of these things. To me they are still unreached possibilities sitting in my writers bucket

  8. dEBBIE

    Bucket List: pat a wild cat's ears, take a train across Canada-stopping to see places of interest, increase my charitability and be less critical/judgemental, talk less/listen more!
    Writer's List: publish, get noticed (hopefully in a positive way!), meet the people who post here (I'm beginning to feel like I know you) be on a best seller list-okay, NY Times best seller list but I don't seriously mean that (it's more of a dream), most of what Dudley said! (pay debt, stranger caught reading, author's blurb, letter)

  9. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Woweee, Zoeeee. Cool post. I'd put losing the day job at the top of the list. I just want to "clock out" without ever having to "clock in" again.

  10. Allison Davis

    Live by the sea or ocean, no day job, eat my way through Provence and Tuscany, see the amber room, watch a dog grow up, mentor someone who does good things with their life, publish some more poetry, get my books out there, have time to paint…."life is about timing…" amen to that.

    I am planning my three month sabbatical for next year and I get to fulfill a mini bucket list that involves mostly writing. Good to anticipate.

  11. Alafair Burke

    Living part of the year on the water is about the only lifestyle bucket list item I have.

    My writing bucket list contains three different ideas for books I probably am not in a position to sell quite yet. I'd post the ideas here but then I'd have to lobotomize all of you.

  12. B.G. Ritts

    Go on a waterfalls tour of Iceland and New Zealand.
    Go on a stained glass tour of Europe.

    Write the all American short short story.

  13. JT Ellison

    My bucket list is fixated on finishing my copyedits….

    Seriously, I tend to shy away from Bucket Lists. I like the unknown too much. If I plan something, it often backfires. I always find the best times are utterly unplanned.

  14. Dave Ebright

    My bucket list would start with spending more time at home & on my boat (I live at the beach, but I'm rarely there). Iceland is an awesome place – recommend visiting during May.

  15. toni mcgee causey

    There are places I'd love to visit for months at a time: the UK, Italy, the Provence area of France, New Zealand / Australia, Japan, China. I'd love to be able to immerse myself in the cultures there, and see their worlds from the prospective of someone who's lived there. I'd need a few lifetimes to accomplish that.

    As for writing, I'm working on the one I want most–the one that felt out of my reach and challenged me and scared the hell out of me. There's another one, more difficult, on the horizon now. I needed to learn how to do this one to accomplish that one.

  16. Larry Gasper

    Zoe, for fantastic Northern Lights, head for Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in Canada. I've seen Northern Lights in southern Canada where I live for years, but the lights up north are truly spectacular.
    Angkor Wat is on the list, as is Petra in Jordan.
    The most recent check off from my bucket list was shooting a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle. Left a big grin on my face.

  17. JD Rhoades

    My literary bucket list includes a vampire/military SF hybrid (the one about the genetically engineered vampire commando and the man who loves her, on the run from the government who wants her destroyed) and a supernatural YA novel about a boy whose nightmares can take shape and how he has to learn to fight the creatures from the dreamworld to save himself and the world.

    In RL, I want to learn to fly an airplane.

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Louise

    Sure there's no small part of the world you'd love to see, but never have? Easter Island heads? Galapagos turtles? Frozen waves in antarctica? Great Wall of China … from space?


  19. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Debbie

    I loved the 'pat a wild cat's ears' bit, but I think you should probably add, 'and retain all my fingers afterwards…'

    Best of luck with the book. Dudley's writing bucket list is a lovely one, isn't it?

  20. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Stephen

    "I'd put losing the day job at the top of the list."

    Erm, shouldn't that be 'giving up the day job' rather than losing it? Being able to give it up implies some choice on your part!

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alafair

    Living on or near the water seems to be a continuing theme here, and I'm definitely all for it!

    And who says some of us haven't been lobotomised already? ;-P

  22. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    Good luck with the copyedits!

    Spontaneity can be good, but some things you just have to plan. I wouldn't like to be winging it too much on a trip to Cambodia, but the idea of a package tour horrifies me. There must be a happy medium…

  23. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Toni

    Well, when you decide to come to the UK, you know you have a place to stay!

    Can't believe I left China off my list. Japan was awesome, though. Loved it. Definitely want to go back.

    Wonderful that you're writing something that scares you, just a little. It's the only way to grow.

  24. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Larry

    Yellowknife for Northern Lights? I'll check it out – and Petra in Jordan, too.

    The Desert Eagle is quite a beastie, isn't? We fired a .50 cal Desert Eagle in AZ, which kicked like a mule – one that had been to a kicking academy and passed out top of its class.

    Next ambition on the firearms list is to be let loose with a Barrett Light Fifty…

  25. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Dusty

    So, is this what the latest WIP is all about? Those ideas I have to read!

    I guess I should have added flying on my list, too. I had a go at rotary wing a couple of years ago and loved it, so would really like to get my helicopter pilot's licence.

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