Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Losing It

      Last week, I leaned aside to check my research notes on PT for injured athletes and when I leaned back somehow erased all 30,000 words of my WIP for The Bad Boy Sinner. I tried the undo thingy and the find search. All I got was a blank title page--at which point I burst into tears. I am not a person who cries often or over things easily fixed.  I knew I had backed up the entire manuscript on a flash drive the day before and only done a light revision on the last chapter and written a few sentences before the calamity occurred. A great deal of the book had also been saved to an external hard drive. I used to print out every day's production, too, but finally gave that up as a waste of paper.

      My abundance of caution grew out of losing forever the first one hundred pages of my third book, then entitled Hartz but since retitled A Taste of Bayou Water at the request of my publisher who said Hartz reminded her of cheap pet food . It was the last name of my geek hero, Jonathan Hartz. I do like its current title better. This was way back around 2006. We carried our computer tower to a supposed expert, and even he couldn't get those pages back. I grieved for two weeks, couldn't write another word. Then, I put on the proverbial big girl panties and started all over again. Of course, it wasn't exactly the same story. In fact, a man I'd figured for a villain turned into a colorful local character, Old Thibodeaux, who gets the last word in the book. I created a much better bad guy and a better book, but I don't recommend using this technique for inspiration to anyone.

     Now, here I sat sobbing my heart out for half an hour. Toward the end as I followed my thoughts, the crying jag wasn't about losing those words at all. My mind quickly segued to not having many sales for my existing thirty books because all my author's events had been cancelled for the entire year. No, it wasn't really about that either as fortunately, I don't rely on my sales for income. Next in line came how much I missed seeing my author friends and a few fans at these events. Then, I trotted on to not having book club or my art group for an alternate outlet as all those meetings had been cancelled.

     Before I knew it, I'd reached how poorly the Covid epidemic had been handled in this country with constant outbreaks keeping me home and inside since February and still afraid to go out because I believe we will have another flare up now that our state in opening with caution and others with impunity. Let's say I won't be vacationing in Florida any time soon. On to being banned from travelling in most of the world. I love to travel, and all the virtual offerings simply are not the same as going to a foreign country and experiencing it first hand: sights, sounds, smells, great food and bad, discovering a quaint shop or little museum not on the itinerary. I once said I wrote for travel money. That income got me to Costa Rica and Alaska, Ireland and Iceland. Next year, I'll be lucky to get out of state.

     That wasn't even the end of my grief.  I entered the quagmire of our current politics. I won't go into particulars, only that I didn't think I could survive another four years of ugly and crazy. Might as well die of Covid before that happens. Finally, I dried my eyes, not wanting my husband who had gone for a solitary bike ride to come home and find me a complete mess for no reason. When he did arrive, I told him about my loss of verbiage. He picked up the flash drive and voila! I had my book back. I wrote a little more, but had lost my concentration and just saved what little I'd added.

     I spewed this incident on Facebook. Say what you will about FB, my friends can be awfully comforting there. One, Tonette who often comments here, remarked that she had another friend who held emotions in and when she dropped a glass and a spoon in the sink, suddenly started crying out of control. The lost words were my glass and spoon. How right she was. Others confessed to suffering from the low grade depression or worse that is afflicting so many of us this long, never ending year. I have lots of company. In the end, I felt better for letting go, if a little foolish. I don't think I'll need to do that again for a while. My daughter says she will move to Nova Scotia if the election results goes contrary to her desire. My final thought on this--I've never been to Nova Scotia and might like it there, too.


Sunday, August 30, 2020


      I've always thought if I had enough books and an internet connection I could endure months of isolation in say a small cabin in the Alaskan wilderness during winter. I have now learned the truth. I got through three months of seclusion from the Covid-19 virus fairly well, but the imprudent folks of our state (Louisiana) caused the governor to freeze the reopening in early phase two.  In other words, we can get haircuts now (I've had two!) and eat in restaurants if we are far from all other customers and wear masks. We haven't done the latter and continue to order takeout which is very good around here. 

     However, having completed three difficult puzzles, run through three books of crosswords, put a huge dent in my TBR pile of books, and have plenty of internet access, I realize I don't do seclusion well. I miss personal interaction, hugs, doing book talks, going to movie night and book club. The libraries aren't even open for browsing. I make my husband take me along in the car when he runs errands like a dog who just wants to get out.  He rolls down the windows for me, too, while he completes his mission. I put on a mask just in case someone might talk to me. If I get an annoyance call on the phone, I listen to their spiel before and ask questions before I hang up if it isn't a robot on the other end. Now that is desperate for company. My poor stock broker called to check up on us after the recent hurricane to see if he could help. We were fine, but I kept him on the line for half an hour just to chat. I guess he won't be offering to help us again.

      About the only thing keeping me sane is my writing. I slumped badly at this during those first three months when I was also recovering from surgery and had no energy and lots of pain inhibiting me. What finally brought me around was two, only two fans, who asked when the next Sinners book would be out. Truthfully, I had all but the last three chapters written and had just let it sit there even though I knew what I wanted to write .I sat down and finished The Aussie Sinner in a few weeks for them. Off it went to the editor who wanted it redone in deep point of view which I hate since I prefer lighter stories to those heavy with emotion. Truly, I almost ditched the whole project, but we reached a compromise. I would make specific changes she wanted but not redo the entire story. Now it is slowly moving through its edits. No telling when it will be out.

     Then, an historical romance I'd submitted elsewhere was accepted. I soon found myself knee deep in edits for that book, but as they don't require deep POV, this moved along fast. I have my cover and received my galley the week Hurricane Laura was due to hit our coast. We're situated about eleven miles inland and up on a ridge so usually don't flood. I tried to finish proofing the galley before the storm sure to knock out our power, but you have to read a galley slowly to find all the nit picky errors like misplaced commas or incorrect quote marks. I didn't quite finish before the storm, but it did give me a reason to get out of bed each boring morning. The good news is the storm passed to the west of us and other than a night of howling winds and spates of rain and three tornado warnings in the night, we had an easy time of it. And lo and behold, we still had power in the morning. While my husband picked up downed branches, I completed my galley and sent off the errata for The Greatest Prize which will be out December first. I think it is one of the best of the Longleigh Chronicles.

     Even better, I got my writing chops back and have started on the next Sinners title, The Bad Boy Sinner.  It's coming along slowly but surely. So thanks to those readers of mine, the two Jo's as I call them, for relighting my fire.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

What to do?

     I find myself between edits. The Greatest Gift, a new Regency, has gone off for line edits and will be out December first. The Aussie Sinner went to contract, and I await the first edits. With nowhere to go and nothing much else to do thanks to the Covid virus, I find myself with a little time on my hands. What can I do in a week besides puzzles and crosswords? I'm reluctant to start writing a new book until the edits are out of the way. So, after reading a short story collection by my friend J.L.Salter entitled Till Death do us Part, I decided to root through my desk drawer to the very bottom and unearth a bunch of short stories, Twilight Zone style, that I'd written years ago.Some I'd revised and put on the computer, but others still languished in the depths. Maybe I had the makings of my own collection for publication.
     This excursion to the very bottom of the drawer unearthed some works I'd forgotten I'd written and even a collection of poetry earnestly written in the Sixties and Seventies. None of the poems were published, probably just as well. Only one of the short stories, The Mummy, The Samurai, The Shrunken Head, and Joe Boone, was printed. It appeared in an e-anthology called Horrors, and I got a whopping ten dollars for the North American serial rights. Within a year, that press folded and the story has been relegated to oblivion. I found numerous versions of it in the great heap, most telling in the first paragraph which mentions a used car. It starts out as a VW, becomes a Saturn, and I guess now should be Hyundai. Or I could go back to VW again. It is easily my favorite of the bunch,and I'd love to see it in print again.
      I found some of the others I'd been looking for to revise, A couple that I recall writing have gone missing. Along with those found, I discovered numerous rejection slips for the same, mostly form letters, but my favorite containing a note that this was a really good story, but they had to publish big names to survive. More than one rejection was signed by Marion Zimmer Bradley, famous for her Arthurian fantasies.. I rather cherish her autograph. She kindly explained that her magazine did not publish stories in which children came to harm. Actually, the children weren't harmed but were placed in jeopardy. I didn't feel I could argue with a big name like that. I didn't reread all the rejections. I'm not that tough. However, I do wonder if I have any other big names among them. Maybe during another interval I'l make that search.
      As I reached the very bottom, I began to find hand-written versions of the stories and even my first novel, rewritten many times, retitled, and now published. The sequence went like this: hand-written, typed on a portable Olivetti-Underwood I'd bought for college, retyped on the Brother electric I purchased from Sears, blobs of white-out covering my typos. The most recent of course are now transcribed on the hard drive of my computer and backed up on a flash drive. I need to revise the best of them and add them to the group--some day.
      Other blasts from the past: the pieces of cardboard I stockpiled to stiffen my submission envelopes and a bunch of pre-addressed SASEs, self-addressed, stamped envelopes, for the return of my treasures. Anyone else remember those? Now, most submissions I do are online as are the rejections I still occasionally get. I used to print them out, but most are form letters and not worth the effort. No famous autographs any more. I did meticulously record on each returned envelope the place where I'd sent it for consideration in order not to double up. Back in those days,there were actually many short story magazines, barely any now.
     I discarded the cardboard and felt guilty about not recycling it, but our area no longer has a recycling program, too expensive they say. A few excess copies made it to the trashcan. Others can go as I transcribe the stories. I put up a light poem about my children that I'd forgotten all about on FaceBook and was immediately reprimanded for leaving out my middle child--by my middle child. I guess I should add another verse when I have the time. I couldn't bring myself to throw out the hand-written pages yet, but they will go one day. Sadly, I am not Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson, and nobody will do a master's thesis on my ink-smeared pages (I'm a lefty).
     Whether this excursion into the past will result in a short story collection, I have no idea. But, if this period of isolation continues, it just might.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Anxious and Depressed?

     I can definitely tell you that putting "sex" into the title of my last blog caused me to get more hits than usual. I expect a sharp decline with this one which originates from my annual physical held by telephone.Since the blood test was cancelled due to COVID, they had nothing to reprimand me about. In fact, I considered telling them I'd lost twenty pounds since I didn't have to go through the get on the scale ordeal this time, but I didn't lie. I merely said I was fine, not the entire truth. Then, they asked me the same question as every year--Do I feel more anxious or depressed? My answer--"Doesn't everyone?" In fact, I think something would have to be wrong with a person who didn't feel this way. COVID stalks the streets and riots rain down on the cities.I feel helpless about both except to keep wearing my mask on the rare occasions I go out and to send money to social causes.
     My writing has suffered. I write light stories with happy endings and feel almost guilty about that. Shouldn't I be doing something dark and deep in tune with the times?  Can't make myself. I do think we need some sheer escapism to carry us away from all the turmoil. I recall after Hurricane Andrew passed our way and everything was a mess from the roof to the yard, the only thing I felt like reading was historical romance by the light of a candle, a retreat into another time and place. Still, with every author's event on my calendar cancelled, my sales are way down despite having launched a fun new historical series, The Longleigh Chronicles, up to book four now and with the fifth, The Greatest Prize now slated to come out in December.
      I kept my promise to finish The Aussie Sinner, the next in my Sinner sports romances, though it was hard going, fighting through feeling down and worrying that I hadn't done a good enough job of portraying a person from another country. In the end, I loved Australian Jock Brown, but would anyone else? Bring on the anxiety. I submitted the book to my editor and immediately got the new party line that it had to be written in Deep Point of View. A simple introductory paragraph to set the place and mood is now labeled omniscient. Evidently, scenery and weather do not exist unless one of the two POVs we are allowed witnesses it. Reluctantly, I took the book back and rewrote the descriptive paragraphs, shoved in more deep emotions and resubmitted. Little else can depress a writer more than being told after having twenty-nine books published, they no longer know how to write. No word on its fate yet as the publishing industry is about to start its summer hiatus on the Fourth of July.
     Yeah, yeah, I know. I should go to self-publishing. If I had the computer skills to do that I would, but so many of my friends have gone that route and after hiring the help they needed to get the book out found themselves in the hole about a thousand dollars or more, and their sales without even the modest help e-publishers give very low. So, I have a right to my anxiety and depression as long as I don't let it get out of control. Usually writing takes me away the same as reading, but at the moment, I am trying to make myself to start a new Sinner book. So far, all I have is a title page.If you feel the same, know you are not alone. Keep shoving those blues aside any way you can. Read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My Dirty Little Sex Books

     I do try to keep political commentary off my Facebook page, but sometimes my outrage just boils over, and I post a comment, usually on the funny or mocking side. I did so a few months back, and those who followed the thread will be aware of what happened next. Within minutes, I was verbally attacked by a man I'd know for twenty years. We'd always gotten along, and at times, I threw some personal business his way as he always seemed to be out of a job. One of my library staff members called these patrons the "poor souls" who came to the library for someone to talk to mostly.
      Anyhow, livid about my joke, he accused me of being a Communist, a corrupter of children with my opinions, and a terrible librarian who wasn't worth the salary I was paid. (Librarians are paid even worse than teachers.) Gently, I replied that I'd been a Democrat just slightly left of center since the age of twenty-one, had never worked with children as I was an administrative librarian, and I had been awarded a state medal for outstanding librarianship. When I retired, I left the library with several new branches, plans for more, and in good financial condition.
     Since that failed to get a rise out of me, he then went on to say that I now wrote "dirty little sex books", insults being the stock in trade of the man he worships. I pointed out that my books, all twenty-nine of them, were not little by far, being between 70,000 and 100,000 words. Though I hated to admit it, my books aren't very sexy and this is sometimes mentioned in reviews. As for being dirty, didn't we all come into the world because of sex? I do not consider two adults who care about each other making love a dirty act. I challenged him to read any of my books for free as the public library has them all, and then he could criticize.
     His reply--I can tell by the covers what kind of books you write. Isn't that a classic remark? He evidently doesn't know that published authors have little to say about their covers. I get some input, but not much. As I thought about my covers, they are fairly bland for the romance genre. I do have a lot of shirtless men, because, honey, that sells, I've been told. There isn't one clinch cover, and the women are all fully clothed in not particularly sexy garments.
     I told him that if he read my books, he'd notice they have strong family values. Not one of my heroes has ever paid a porn star for sex while his wife is recovering from childbirth and then paid $150,000 to cover up his yes, dirty, deed. I didn't wait for a reply, just simply blocked and unfriended him. A fanatic can't be reasoned with. I will add that other librarians and my readers did jump to my defense which left me feeling all warm and fuzzy.  Poor man, he'll never the pleasure of reading one of my books.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Corona Blues

     Lo and behold, it has come to pass--everything I predicted in my last post. One by one all of my spring promotional events were cancelled along with things I simply enjoy such as book club, theater presentations, movie nights, and water aerobics. Because of my hip surgery, I'd already been kept at home for four weeks before our governor issued the stay-at-home order. I experienced one glorious night of freedom with dinner in a restaurant and then attending Beautiful, the Carole King Story (wonderful, see it when life returns to normal) in a large auditorium packed with people. We ran into the manager of the place who knows my husband. He confided that the shutdown order was coming and the powers that be wanted to close the play, but he said he'd be in big trouble if he did. The night for March was almost balmy, and I stood talking to friends while waiting for my car to arrive and pack me and my walker inside for the ride home. I think of it as the Last Good Evening.
     The next day we were on lock down and have been ever since. My husband continued to work in his deserted museum until that, too, was shut down a week later. He has been kept busy getting our groceries (once a week only) and doing the housework I am not yet up to doing. We are keeping some of our local restaurants in business with takeout and even ordered our Easter dinner by mail. We Facetimed with the grandchildren and watched them do their egg bumping contest, a family custom. They observed ours done with only four eggs. Not much of a contest, but still fun. Other than that, it is lots of reading, working an incredibly hard puzzle with no picture and two puzzles mingled together, doing crosswords, and trying to watch Jeopardy which keeps getting knocked off for depressing Covid updates.
     Now, you'd think I'd be writing up a hurricane with all this free time, but pain and pain pills blunted that earlier. Now that I am feeling better, I also feel so out of sync. I've managed only to produce one solid chapter added to The Aussie Sinner in these many weeks. I did begin another but the progress is slow, not because of lack of ideas, but simply coping with the shut in situation. I need to share my beloved desk top computer with my husband who has now sketched out his planetarium programs until August. His annual convention set for June in Florida has been cancelled as well. I intended to go along and visit my sister in that state, but that too is gone. Just nothing to look forward to except a rescheduled dental appointment. Oh, joy.
     Yes, I may be a little depressed. I am old enough to know these things pass--but when? I do agree we need to stay inside as long as it takes. Did I mention I live in the plague state of Louisiana, the place that Texas and Florida have sealed off as if they had no sickness of their own? In fact, I am now a little afraid to go to Florida considering their governor has opened the beaches. Seems way imprudent. Five deaths in our small town, but New Orleans of course is a hotbed.
      Although some printers have closed down as have our local library and bookstore, publishing grinds on. Daughter of the Rainbow came out February first as promised, and I got my copies, now gathering dust, shortly thereafter. The Double Dilemma is slated for release on May first. I'm waiting to see if that happens. I swear I will find the energy and resolve to work on the new Sinners book, my promise to you. Meanwhile, stay safe and well.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Writer and the Corona Virus

     Many writers are introverts who probably welcome the idea of self-isolating themselves because of the corona virus and spending every second of that time creating their latest WIP. I'm not one of them. I enjoy the meet and greet, but I have said at least I can still write in this time of crisis. Maybe we'll all get a lot done. I had several books in the pipeline before this epidemic started. Daughter of the Rainbow came out right on time March first and The Double Dilemma is slated for May first. Both of these are part of the Longleigh historical series but can be read as stand-alones if someone craves a single, humorous Regency. Bet you can't read just one!
     Not doing so well in week four of my isolation (from hip surgery) is The Aussie Sinner. Between PT pain and painkillers, my will to create has been sapped. I know what I want to do and don't do it. Haven't completed that painting due for an April show either! None of this has anything to do with the virus, but I experienced my first hint of what might come to be.
     My first event of spring was an arts and crafts fair I always attend and do well at hand selling. When I sit down to calculate my earnings as a writer at the end of the year, I have several royalty statements and then books I sold myself. More than half of my income comes from the latter. The day dawned gray and chilly. Sitting outside from eight to three huckstering my books lost its appeal as I thought of my aching hip and the possibility of meeting someone with the virus. I stayed home. Sales lost along with the opportunity to promote The Longleigh Chronicles.
      My next event is a library conference. I haven't heard a word so far, but there is every chance it might be cancelled. While I don't sell well at library conferences, I do give out lots of cards on my current books and often see sales afterwards as people buy for their library collections, not themselves (and they get to read the new books first). As a librarian, I was guilty of this.
      In April, I have another big event where I sell well-a local literary festival. I am still holding my breath to see if it is cancelled. So far, no one in our area has come down with the virus. I am sure it won't be long. If these events don't take place, I lose half my modest income due to this disease. You can use all this time to write, but lack of promotion is going to take its toll on sales. And I have to weigh other considerations. Yes, I am old but not elderly, and recovering from a major operation. Should I be out and about at all? Not good at staying home, I think I will take my chances if I have toe opportunity.
     I don't think there will be a shortage of paper or printer ink, though I have heard that due to tariffs being raised, paper especially will be more expensive and raise the price of books. That means that even with an author's discount, I'll have to price my books higher to cover the higher price. More expensive equals fewer sales. Some people in our area are hoarding bottled water and toilet paper. Why, I am not sure. Our tap water is good and, as far as I know, corona virus does not cause diarrhea. This isn't a hurricane, folks. You'd be better off stocking TV dinners in the freezer in case you are isolated either voluntarily or by the national guard. Maybe, hoarding should be of peanut butter, sardines and saltines, or the mysterious "potted meat" that people only buy if a big storm is coming.
      To wrap this up, I will only say, "Keep Calm and Keep Writing."