Saturday, April 4, 2020

Monday, March 30, 2020

Writing - What's Next?

I'm trying to work on something besides the next Tudor novel (which I will talk about soon, I promise - I have a post mostly written, but I want to keep up on current events too). My publishing contract only covers historical fiction, so if I write something other than a historical novel, I can self-publish. My publisher only has so many spots and as it is, it doesn't look like they'll be able to release my next book until late 2021 (and that's not including any potential virus-related delays).

I'd like to publish something before then. Many writers these days do rapid-release, putting a book out into the world every few months. I can't do that. I don't want to do that. I don't write that quickly, and when I do, it needs more editing, which slows the whole process down again. But I also don't want to wait 2 years between books, so I'm considering what to do next, to keep me occupied, published, and - hopefully - bringing in a tiny bit of income.

Here's the thing. I've been working mostly from home for the last year or so. I do the occasional temp job (but not now). I do craft shows in spring and fall, and the holiday season (spring/summer at least has been canceled). I have both a handmade and vintage shop on Etsy, which are so quiet you can hear the tumbleweeds blowing. And I do online transcription with Rev. Also completely quiet.

This is totally understandable. The offices who would normally hire me are doing work-from-home with their existing employees. Most people, if they're shopping, are looking for essentials for hunkering down at home. And again, with the transcription, most meetings and events that would need transcribing...aren't happening.

So if I self-publish on Amazon, I'd get 70% of the royalties, instead of what I get through my publisher. This is not a dig at them; they have a business to run, and since I work directly with them, instead of through an agent, my royalties are considerably higher than they would be. But.

My current idea is a book of fairy tales. My dad used to tell me stories all the time when I was a kid, and I assumed he was reading them to me. He wasn't. He wasn't a comfortable reader, so he'd open the book on his lap and just wing it, mixing Sleeping Beauty with Snow White. Dwarves showed up in the oddest places. I wish I remembered them more clearly, but I remember bits and pieces, and I'm trying to get them into some kind of coherent form.

I'd like to see what I'm capable of doing on my own, and right now, on my own is pretty much where it's at. Thankfully I do have tech support upstairs, hiding out at his computer, but I'm curious to see what I can do.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Stay Home

The peach tree I planted
last summer is blooming!
So I'm doing my best to keep distancing and distracting myself. There's a fine line between being well-informed and driving yourself around the bend. I thought I knew that already, but it's even more important now.

So while I'm on the computer, I'm letting Mario have most of the bandwidth for his obsessive Googling and news-gathering, and I'm trying to write. It's going. I'm not sure how well it's going, but it's going.


Mainly I need to keep from climbing the walls, and that seems like a good way to direct my energies, since it isn't garden season yet.

I did get out there the other day - it was nearly 80 degrees and the dirt was calling to me - and I felt "normal" for the rest of the day, and the next morning, until I caught up on the news.

Moral of that story: dig in the dirt, stay away from the news, and STAY HOME.

That's all I've got for now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Our New Normal

Looking forward to getting back into the garden
How many people feel like they're living in a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel right now? It's never been my favorite genre, but the kind I do like are the ones where the remaining people pull together, pool resources, re-learn old skills, and get back to the business of living. James Howard Kunstler's World Made by Hand is a great example.

Of course, right now, we can't pull together, except by pulling separately. The best way to show that we care is to keep our distance and act as if we're already infected, so that - even if we're not - we don't carry germs to someone in a higher-risk group.

One of the worst parts for us is just that, distancing ourselves from the high-risk, which would be Mario's mom. She's recently gone into a nursing home in NJ and they're currently on total lockdown, so we can't see her at all. We're calling, but it's not the same to someone who's a little confused about the world.

The way things are going, it looks like we're going to be seeing a lot of our in-house
nearest and dearest for quite some time. For some, this is spouse, kids, pets. For some, it's any one of those. For others, they're stuck at home alone.

None of these are good, in the short term, but for there to be a long run, it's what has to be done.

I feel fortunate, after hearing about all those empty supermarket shelves that I'm the kind of person who always has a month's worth of food on hand. I don't know if it was growing up listening to my aunts' tales of the Depression, hitting the frugal living/FIRE movement at the right time, or  just my natural tendencies, but when I've seen non-perishables that I like on sale, I've always stocked up. We have a chest freezer in the basement (which was just getting restocked pre-pandemic after an unfortunate accidental plug removal and mass meltdown). I have tomato sauce and veggies from our garden that I both froze and canned last year. And I can make soup from anything.

Which is not to say that this is going to be easy. Mario's lucky that he can work from home. I know a lot of people aren't that fortunate. And while I do work from home, a lot of the work that I do is suddenly not around. Spring craft shows have been canceled across the board, so while I want to sew to manage my anxiety, it's not like I really need to build up more stock. Another thing I do is online transcription, but with offices closing, not a lot of work is being submitted.

And I don't even want to talk about Etsy. People haven't hit stress/therapy shopping yet, other than for necessary supplies and perhaps some reading material.

So what am I doing to keep myself from climbing the walls? Prepping the garden for spring, working on my next book (which thankfully has little mention of infectious disease), cleaning corners of the house which I haven't looked into since we moved in, and yes, still sewing. Because if I don't make things, my brain will leak out my ears, and then where will I be?

It's too early to tell, but I feel like this is going to cause some massive reset in our society. How that will work out, I can't even imagine. I hope it's not as bad as I fear it will be. I hope everybody keeps to themselves as much as possible, but also that they get outdoors when they can. Just sitting in the sun for a few minutes makes me feel better.

What about you? How are you handling your quarantine/shelter-in-place/work-from-home/social distancing?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Giveaway

Many of us are stuck at home right now. It's the right place to be - the right thing to do - but that doesn't meant we're not already climbing the walls just. a. little. bit.

Which means we need something to occupy our time. Once the closets are cleaned and the gardens put in order, and you've exhausted everything that Amazon and Netflix have to offer, there's always ... books.

I have a signed paperback copy of Songbird available for giveaway right now.

The rules, such as they are: please go to my writer Facebook page and like and share the pinned giveaway post. I'm trying to get a few more followers there, because followers mean sales, and sales mean I don't have to go back to cubicle-land anytime soon. (Actually, I just turned down a 4 week temp assignment in cubicle-land because Mario's working from home for at least the next 2 weeks and it seemed ridiculous - and risky - to take that much public transportation, and spend that much time with people, when my husband, who works in a much larger space, is at home because his employer has decided it's too risky). So no temping for me. Yay?

If you're not on Facebook, I understand. Like Twitter, it can be a trash fire sometimes, but if you curate what you follow, you can escape the worst of it. That being said, if you're not on FB and you want to be considered for the giveaway, leave a comment telling me that you're entering the giveaway through the blog.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Book Review: The War in Our Hearts

Time for another random book review, this one from Eva Seyler, my publisher's other historical fiction author.

I read The War in Our Hearts, which came out around this time last year, before I became friends with Eva on Twitter. I was interested first because we shared a publisher, but also because I've always had a soft spot for WWI stories.

The description from Amazon: France, 1916: Estelle Graham faces a nightmare. Expecting to meet her beloved husband and bring their newly adopted daughter home to Scotland, she instead finds him gravely injured and unconscious in a casualty station. As she fights for his care, she takes solace in his journals and letters.

In a farmhouse in Somme, Captain Jamie Graham is forever changed when he meets young Aveline Perrault. Both of them broken and walled off from the cruel and cold world around them--made even crueler and colder by the Great War--the pair form an unlikely bond. She finds in him the father she never had, and with her love, he faces the pain from his own childhood.

Discover the depth of love and faith in the face of brutality and neglect as they learn to live while surviving World War I.

This is not your standard WWI story. While it certainly covers the horrors of war, much more of it is made up of the actions that brought the protagonist, Jamie Graham, to this point - his awful childhood, his years at school, finding his love of music. His meeting and courtship of Estelle. And, finally, his fellow soldiers - and Aveline - who he encounters in France prior to his injury.

Unusually told in flashbacks, diary entries, letters and memories, this is a mosaic of a tale that will stay with you long after you've finished.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Weekend Roundup

An letter from Anne Boleyn to her king.
16th century handwriting transcribed
by the folks at Hever Castle.
I post a lot of interesting historical goodies over on my writer Facebook page, but for those of you not on the festering dumpster-fire that can be Facebook, I thought I would share the more interesting links over here, on a semi-regular basis (as in whenever there are enough of them to make it worth our mutual while).

To the left, a transcription of a letter from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII. It wouldn't pass as a love letter these days - then again, neither would a letter - but that was apparently enough to keep the king hot and bothered.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by metal detectors. This treasure hunter found a ring which may well have belonged to one (or two) of Henry's queens.

And for readers of Songbird, you'll have noted that the sweating sickness was mentioned several times. It was a strange and often deadly disease in Tudor times. There were only five documented outbreaks, but they were memorable. History.com has a good article about it here.