Monday, February 15, 2021

The Unexpected

      I fully expected to write a brief blog at the end of January despite being scheduled for hip surgery on the twenty-fifth of the month. Hey, I'd spend two or three nights in the hospital and be home in time to write my message before February arrived. Instead, I was transferred to a PT rehab facility for eleven days to rebuild my strength.  Physical therapy three times a day, decent food, sponge baths--but no computers. When not exercising, we were to stay in our rooms with no visitors thanks to the Covid epidemic. My husband could visit at a open window where we passed my laundry back and forth, not love notes.

     Of course, The Aussie Sinner had just come out, and I was unable to promote it from my room.  I also expected a shipment of The Greatest Prize paperbacks that I'd been trying to order since December, but the publisher had changed printers and complications ensued. Before, we just sent a message on how many copies we wanted and after paying through Paypal, the books appeared two weeks later. These showed up days after I'd returned home.  Not that I had anywhere to sell them because all events had been cancelled.  I wanted to drop the usual number of copies off at the local bookstore and the library--still sitting in the box.  Why? Because I'm not allowed to drive yet--and the roads are covered in ice.

     Yes, I live and often write about south Louisiana, but weather in the twenties and a sleet storm on Lundi Gras (the Monday before Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday) rank right up there with the highly unexpected.  Parades and other Mardi Gras activities had already been cancelled and thank heaven for that. Cajuns simply aren't equipped for black ice and slippery roads. I can only say the theme of my Mardi Gras books is "anything can happen on Mardi Gras day" in a city, small town or the country. If you can't get out, try reading Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, Mardi Gras Madness, or Courir de Mardi Gras.

     Lest you think I did no publicity while in rehab, you'd be wrong. As usual, my purse was stocked with book cards showing my covers and having blurbs and ordering information on the back.  I freely distributed these to nurses, LPNs, and patients, many of whom were readers with time on their hands during the long night shifts and endless hours alone.  I know one of them is now reading her way through the Sinners series which is greatly gratifying. So, you never know what the unexpected  will bring your way for better or worse. Just be prepared to roll with it.  


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Blue Christmas

     The thing I am most thankful for is that terrible 2020 is nearly over. For Christmas, I want a better 2021--and a Covid shot, but I'll have to wait my turn, probably months. Of the year in review, I can only say for lack of anything else to do, I completed four books. Daughter of the Rainbow, The Double Dilemma, and The Greatest Prize, all in the Longleigh Chronicles, and The Aussie Sinner, the newest Sinners title.  The first two came out in the spring, Greatest Prize in December, and Aussie Sinner will be available in late January. I'm also nearly done with The Bad Boy Sinner. Evidently, all writers were just as productive as one of my editors was not thrilled to get my manuscript for Aussie Sinner, saying they were slammed with editorial work. As a result of that, it moved through the lengthy publishing process like maple syrup on a cold day. But, that's okay. I don't plan to do as much next year and do plan to have another hip surgery.  If that is successful and Covid gives us a break, I'll be hitting road again, not spending every day writing.

     Christmas is the one time of year we get together with our three grown children, their significant others, and the grandkids, not always at our house as we take turns hosting, but still together for present opening, meals, movies, and games.  None of that this year, so I am feeling a little blue. I told my husband I didn't want a tree or any decorations.  I didn't plan to make a huge dinner or do any baking, but he brought home a small tree anyhow--which then had to be decorated with one string of lights and about a quarter of our ornaments. A relative sent a large balsam wreath which we put on our fence. A friend stopped by with cookies, so I had to reciprocate by whipping up batch of my easiest to make treats. Christmas just won't let me alone to brood as I'd like.

     The tree is not the best we've had, but certainly not the worst. One year, we took the kids to a tree farm to cut our own.  Out in those field, all the trees seems kind of puny so we settled on the biggest we could find.  When unfurled in our room, it took up half the space and required oodles of ornaments. Note to self, trees look much larger indoors.  Perhaps our biggest folly was waiting for our freshman daughter to come home from college to get a tree.  She arrived just a few days before Christmas--and lo and behold, the lots in our town were empty and shut down. So, we piled in the car and drove to the next town over which also appeared denuded of pine trees except for a sign in the window of a mom and pop sandwich shop which said, "We have Christmas Trees."  We piled out of the car and were shown to a small lot behind the store where three trees remained, none of them big or grand, mostly small and yellow.  We took the best of them which I swear shed half its needles on the way home. Covered with lots of lights and ornaments, it wasn't awful, but even my daughter said not to wait for her next year.

     There, recounting Christmases past has lifted my mood a little as will the Zoom get together we plan for tomorrow.  As I say to everyone these days, stay safe and well.  Here's treat for the eye for all of you, the cover of The Aussie Sinner already up for pre-sale on Amazon.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Blog with a Blog

 https://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/2020/11/12/return-of-guest-fox-lynn-shurr/

I am fudging a little for the month of November. My fellow prolific author, Jeff Salter, did such a great job on this interview, that I am passing it along. You might discover lots of new things about me if you read it to the end.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween Horrors

      As a child, I was scared of every bump in the night, sure terrible creatures (usually mice) inhabited the crawl space right next to my bed. Needless to say, Halloween was not my favorite holiday. A showing of  Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow sent me straight to my parents' bed because of bad dreams--and I was ten. They kicked me out, saying I was too old for this.  Not that I didn't like the trick or treat aspect of Halloween. We selected the most heavy duty shopping bag we could find and joined large groups of free-range Fifties kids to prowl the night door to door without any parental interference. Nearly every house had a light on in our small town of two-thousand. If we needed a bathroom, someone would always let us in. Our sole trick was scattering dried corn we robbed from a farmer's field on the porches of people who chose not to be home. Some smashed pumpkins or threw eggs, but not our group--because if our families did find out--ouch!

     The only scare I had in those days came at the threshold of my fifth grade teacher who lived in an old Victorian home surrounded by tall, dark trees on top of a small hill. Her name, most fittingly, was Miss Updegrave. As we climbed the two sets of stone steps to get to the house, the full moon disappeared behind a cloud. When we got to the porch, thunder rolled and the porch swing went into action on its own. I am fairly sure I saw a black cat in the bushes. We bugged the hell out of there, and good thing because the on-coming storm would have ruined our paper bags filled to the brim with full-sized candy bars.

     Being a scaredy-cat, I've never had an urge to write horror stories, though I have done a few unpublished Twilight Zone style short stories. My one attempt at a rather benign ghost story, The Courville Rose ran into a peculiar problem. Beginning during the Civil War, a young woman of eighteen commits suicide by gently throwing herself into the river and letting her petticoats take her down after she learns of the death of her fiancĂ© in battle. Being Catholic, she should go straight to hell for taking her life, but the nuns who educated her pray mightily to prevent this given her disturbed state. Instead, she is doomed to haunt her family home for all eternity. She watches over the place through thick and thin, but when she begins to recognize souls she once knew in new bodies, she wants to possess someone and go in search of her lost love. She brings this off partially, but the stubborn little girl won't leave her body--and so they have to grown up sharing, one always looking for her old love, and the girl loving the boy who saved her from being drowned by the spirit. An interesting conundrum, I thought.

     Not what the first publisher I offered it to thought, however. I got a message saying they couldn't print a book that condoned teen suicide. Huh? In the 1860's a female of eighteen was considered an adult and usually married at that age or younger. This was no Romeo and Juliet tale but one of a love lost in battle. I argued my point to no avail, even softened her death by having her accidentally fall into the river but refuse to fight for her life. I mean, there had to be a mortal sin for her to be condemned to haunting. What kind of God would do that because of an accident? Oh well, it was no go. You can try to argue with a publisher, but no is usually no.

      It was my good luck that the next press took the book. The Courville Rose is still my only ghost story, and isn't horrible at all. Eventually, it does have a happy ending. Still, the first editor told me to stick contemporary romance, my strongest talent. Being a little rebellious, I have tried a couple of mysteries and a long historical series. Authors do get tired of writing the same old same old all the time, but none have been as successful as my Sinner sports romances. So, be on the lookout for The Aussie Sinner this winter.

       

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

Isolation

      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.