Six Positives To Self-Isolating

This week is our first full week of self-isolation. My place of employment sent everyone home last Wednesday, my son’s company sent him home on Friday, and my husband voluntarily started working from home on Monday.

Right now, each of us starts our day at our usual time, but rather than head out the door, we go to our separate work areas. I and my husband have basement offices and my son has his computers set up in his room (he works for a cyber security company). So far, I’ve seen more positives than negatives to our new lifestyle, and here’s why:

  1. My husband is saving 2-2/12 hours per day of commuting, my son is saving 90 minutes, and I’m saving 40 minutes, which is good for the environment, our stress levels, and our wallets, even though gas is significantly cheaper these days.
  1. read-652384_960_720[1]Instead of reading from my iPad, I’m reading more paperbacks bought from my local new and used bookstore, who need and appreciate the support.
  1. I’m able to take care of more writing tasks and am eating better on my work break.
  1. I’ve found great new exercise workouts on Utube.Flowers for Mimo
  1. My husband and I are doing more yard work together, for the first time. He usually takes care of the garden and yard, while I’m out running errands, meeting my writers’ group, or going to the gym.
  1. I’m checking in with friends and colleagues more often on social media, making sure everyone’s okay.

And then there’s the silence. I live near a major thoroughfare and generally only notice the quiet at special times, like Christmas morning, during a snowfall, or when I can’t sleep at 3:00 a.m. It’s like this every day now, and I’m hearing far fewer police, fire, and ambulance sirens. It’s almost as if the world has grown calmer, although I’m well aware that there’s plenty of angst happening out there.

I also know that self-isolation is perhaps easier for me than others because I’m an introvert and a writer. On some levels, self-isolation has always been part of life. But I do understand how difficult it can be. When I was a stay-at home mom with young kids, without a car and living on a hilly street, and my husband was putting in ten hour days at work accompanied by a 3-hour commute, I desperately wanted to go out and do something, or run a much-needed errand. Transit was terrible back then and on chilly, rainy days it just wasn’t feasible.

Still, there are things I also miss right now, like chatting with my friend while working out and visiting my daughter (who’s in her 22nd week of pregnancy), and hosting families dinners. I miss all the book launches and other writing events that have been cancelled.

But we’ll get through this and will re-emerge, and be more appreciative of what we have than what we’ve lost. There’s plenty to look forward to in 2020, and every day is one step closer to getting back on track with a new awareness and valuable lessons learned from this experience.

The Post-Publication Hangover

Publishing a full-length book is a momentous project that often takes years to complete. So when publication date finally arrives, it’s certainly cause for celebration, not to mention some relief. For me, acknowledging release day might involve a dinner out, a book launch, a library reading, or perhaps just a special glass of wine at the end of the day.

The Blade Man, front coverAfter a book’s release, I always feel somewhat discombobulated (I love that word). I have trouble sleeping, feel a bit anxious, lethargic, and can’t fully concentrate on anything for long. I start second-guessing myself as to whether the book should have been published. It’s the kind of niggling that I suspect most creative people suffer.

This has been happening a lot these past two weeks, so I’m not jumping into marketing and promotion tasks with great gusto at the moment. There’s a long list of things that need to be done…approaching libraries, bloggers, and reviewers, for starters. I haven’t had the incentive to do any of those things, which tells me two things. One is that it’s time let my mind and body relax. The other is that old post-publication habits might not work anymore.

1431975253_60f22e0295_n[1]So, I’m now engaging in a little TLC. I read an article a couple days back about self care (you can find it HERE) and there were good tips on inexpensive ways to look after ourselves, and don’t we all need more of that in what’s proving to be a rather stressful 2020?

Until recently, I drank four cups of coffee every morning, which pretty much took all morning. After lunch, it was caffeinated tea right until supper time. It’s no surprise that I recently began to feel like I was carrying a large, hot rock in my gut. I’ve now cut back significantly on caffeine and it’s helped a lot.

I’m also managing to keep to a regular gym routine this month, combining resistance and cardio workouts with core strengthening. Some of the other tips mentioned in the article include meditation, reducing social media time, eating more vegetables, and so forth. I’ve been doing most of the above except meditation, but I keep forgetting about the importance of deep breathing.

The author also offers another great tip called checking in with yourself. For me this means putting writing, publishing, and promotion into perspective. Although writing is hugely important in my life, this type of work doesn’t deal with actual life and death matters. I’m not a surgeon, or a search-and-rescue patrol person, or a soldier, or a cop. I’m an author who isn’t perfect, but who keeps striving to do a little better with every single sentence. And I’m trying real hard not to be a perfectionist but, oh boy, it’s a battle.

The Blade Man is available at:

Amazon: mybook.to/TheBladeMan

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-blade-man

Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1495092401

UBL: https://books2read.com/u/3LDre1

Well, It Was Almost a Balanced Week

It’s always a struggle for writers to juggle family life and day jobs with their creative lives. In fact, most of us don’t spend nearly as much writing/editing time as we’d like for numerous reasons, although this past week I came close.

I’m one of those weird folks who actually likes Mondays because that’s when I’m at my most energetic. Mondays means that I can get a fair bit of writing and editing done before and after the day job. On a really good day, I’ll then put in a half hour on the treadmill while catching up on reading. Yeah, I’ve been a multi-tasker for years.

By Wednesday afternoon, my energy level seriously fades. Thursday’s often a struggle to write, and Friday’s almost a complete write-off when it comes to stamina and concentration. Usually I can squeeze a little more writing time in on the weekends, but this past weekend was different.

Shower prep-2A few weeks ago, I volunteered our house for my daughter’s bridal shower. Given that this is summer, I figured we’d have a dozen guests at most. My task was to clean the house and provide platters for the food that the bridesmaids were bringing. I spent most of Saturday and early Sunday, cleaning the two bathrooms, tidying, dusting, etc. while my hubby and son swept the patio, cleaned the outdoor table, moved the BBQs out of the way and arranged furniture.

Bridal shower, group photoOnce the bridesmaids arrived, I watched in awe as they brewed jugs of different flavored teas, laid out food, decorated, and arranged flowers with an efficiency that had me in awe. As you’ll see from the photo, my twelve guest estimate pretty much doubled in size. (I’m in the blue dress in the front row, my daughter to the left, and my sister on the right.)

The shower was great fun and the bridesmaids were just as efficient with the cleanup and take-down as they were in setting things up. By the time every had left by 4:30, though, I was exhausted. My plans to do a little more editing that evening fizzled away.

Still, a good week of editing, followed by awesome family time, could be considered a balanced week. The only problem was that none of us felt rested by Monday morning. That’s okay, I have major rest and relaxation planned for this upcoming long weekend.

CakeBy the way, the delicious lemon cake in the photo was hand made by one of the bridesmaids. She brought fresh flowers to decorate the cake with! She also made a cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and earl grey cookies, which were amazing. As her wedding gift, she’s making the wedding cake, along with cupcakes. Now that I’m totally in wedding mode, I can’t wait for the big event in September.

 

The Edits Are Back and It’s Go Time

Types_of_Freelance_Writing_Services[1]It feels like a long time since I released my fifth Casey Holland mystery Knock Knock, in November 2017, but a heck of a lot has happened since then. Through it all, I’ve been slowly editing draft after draft of the next installment, The Blade Man.

I reached a point in May where I felt that I’d completed as many drafts as I could, and it was time to send the manuscript to my editor. I was in no rush, but as it happened, my editor had a sudden opening in her schedule, and she finished the edits by mid-June.

Last week, I began making the editorial changes. I’ve also acquired ISBNs for the print and ebook, and have contacted my designer, who’s slotted me in for December. I don’t have an exact launch date yet and probably won’t for a while. There’s plenty of prep work to do in the meantime and when it is published, I will celebrate.

This book has been a long time in the making. I remember first meeting the person (over a coffee at Starbucks) who became my technical advisor on bus-driving issues. That was over seven years ago. At that time, my publisher was working on bringing out book #3, Beneath the Bleak New Moon. Book #4, The Deep End, was probably on its fourth or fifth draft, and Knock Knock was still in its early stages.

I therefore knew it would be quite some time before this book would be published, but finally that date is on my radar.

A Casey Holland novella won’t be too far behind (I hope) which will be completely unlike any Casey story I’ve written. It explores the lighter side of her transit security work in all it’s raunchy, awkward, and humorous glory. But I’m getting ahead of myself…stay tuned!

Catching Up On Tasks During Easter Break

easter-monday[1]There’s nothing like a four-day break from the day job to catch up on home and creative projects. My husband spent two dry-weather days (the other two were rainy) doing home repairs on our house and planting our garden.

I visited my mother, who wasn’t well enough to spend Easter with us and afterward prepared a ham dinner for the rest of the family. I also took time to make a dent in endless writing projects. They weren’t all about editing, but updating records, organizing papers, and adding live links to my books.

One of the best things about now being self-published is that I can make changes to my books and reissue them when I want to, not when my publisher decides to, if they do at all. After I parted company with the publisher of my Casey Holland mysteries and obtained all rights to my books, I spent a fair bit of time going over all four manuscripts and reissuing them with new ISBNs on Amazon and through D2D (which handles Kobo, Nook, Apple books and other platforms). I was eager just to get the books posted again, but neglected to add live links so that readers could easily access all books from any book they purchased.

Two weeks ago, I finally created live links for all five books in the series, and this weekend I reissued the first four, with the exception of Knock Knock, which I’m going through again. There were a couple of errors that needed correcting.

I also caught up on the dementia journal I’ve been writing since my mother was first diagnosed over four years ago. It is now 25 single-spaced pages, and one day might be helpful in creating characters afflicted with this disease. If you have a friend or family member suffering from dementia, recording everything really helps. It might also be useful for the doctors as well.

I have to say that I’m happy with the Easter break productivity and for all of the family time I enjoyed. Heck, I even dusted parts of my office. Oddly, I didn’t eat any chocolate, but I sure did enjoy my share of wine. We have a membership at a local winery and a case of reds and whites were ready for pickup, and of course, I couldn’t just zip in and out without stopping for a little wine tasting. Yeah, it was a fun, productive weekend. I could use another four-day break like that soon.

 

 

An Inspiring Family Conversation

Cartoon of Girl WritingI don’t often discuss my writing projects with my family. In fact, many writers I know don’t discuss their work in general, some because they feel it might jinx it or diminish their enthusiasm. Others believe that non-writing friends and family wouldn’t be interested. Let’s face it, there’s a reason no one’s made a TV show or reality contest about novel writing. It’d be pretty boring to watch.

My husband, daughter, and future son-law are all accountants, and my son is a science major working in the tech field. You can well imagine that my job doesn’t really fit into conversations easily, which is fine. It doesn’t bother me that no one’s ever asked “how’d your writing go today?” Most days, the answer would be pretty vague and monosyllabic.

This weekend, my daughter was helping me add hyperlinks to my ebooks and later, while we were having dinner she asked when my next book would be published. She also asked me about my creative process. She wanted to know if I create a situation, incident, or plot and then weave my series characters to fit that, or do I look at my characters first and create a situation to fit them? It was a great question, which launched a discussion about the creative process.

You see, my husband also paints water colors as a hobby. My daughter is a terrific writer and articulate communicator in her own right. She exceled at novel analyses in English classes and wrote songs and played guitar in her late teens. Both my husband and daughter have friends who are professional artists, so creativity isn’t completely foreign to their world.

It was a fascinating discussion because I learned things about my husband’s hobby that I never knew (he often gets up at the crack of down and experiments with drawings before he leaves for work), and I learned how my daughter’s friend arrives at the themes and decisions that appear in her paintings.

Through the half hour or so we spent sharing experiences and ideas, I became more excited at the prospect of finishing my current WIPS, of exploring topics in ways that I hadn’t considered in a long time. It was enlightening, inspiring, and a great boost. Isn’t it amazing where inspiration comes from?

Two Projects, Lots of Decisions

volunteer-1888823_960_720[1]This week, I’ve been immersed in two projects (until I came down with the flu yesterday), one is the third-draft edit of my urban fantasy novel. It’s been a challenge, a genre I’ve never written before, but it’s slowly coming together. There’s been positive feedback from my writers’ group, but the novel far from reaching the beta reader stage. I’m making lots of changes, page by page, deciding what to cut, what needs fleshing out, and trying to come up with a deadline for myself, given that this project could go on for years. I’ve already been at it for quite some time, and I maybe I should decide on a timeframe to complete the book.

The second project, in its own way, is also challenging, although this one has a set deadline. In the city where I live, I’m also a volunteer with the city’s Citizens Advisory Group. Our task this month is to review twenty-four grant applications and submit our top five for consideration.

Happily, we can do this online and on our own time, so I downloaded the booklet and began reading it late last week. After making notes on all twenty-four, I found it increasingly difficult to decide which organizations most deserve grant money because they all have merit. Collectively, the applications could have an important and positive impact on communities, our environment, and the physical and emotional well-being of residents of all ages.

After a lot of pondering and determining my own criteria, I came up with five and submitted them on Monday (before the flu took hold), but I wish there was more money to spare. Our small city’s budget isn’t large and the demands far outweigh the available funds. As I’m only one of over two hundred people in the advisory group, my decisions might not have any impact on the final outcome, but at least I tried and did what I thought was best.