Morning Coffee: “New Normal”

SummerIt’s a term we’ve been hearing a lot lately. Personally, I hate it. I don’t want a new normal. I want my old normal back. To me it reeks of government control and the nanny state. But, right now we really don’t have a choice. The trick will be, finding that balance between living our own lives, and being aware of others, until this virus threat has been controlled.

For the foreseeable future, it will mean wearing a face mask when in a crowded public situation. It means putting a little distance between you and the next person, maybe waiting instead of everyone trying to cram into the same elevator. Holding off on shaking hands, or hugging. These are things I can live with. With a little imagination, a mask can become a fun fashion accessory. Just check out all the options popping up for sale in Facebook ads. I’ve never been comfortable in crowds, and don’t get me started on men who shake hands like they’re trying to crush a beer can. What are they trying to prove, anyway?

I do worry about the business owners, though. Running a successful restaurant is near impossible. Their overhead is tremendous. If they can only seat half as many people, at most, many are going to disappear. The same with numerous other small neighborhood businesses. The American Dream is under threat.

We’re going to have to start running businesses differently. There will be more online shopping. This growing trend is already putting a strain on our delivery services. Drive-through and curbside are also options. But it’s the walk-in clientele that make-up the majority of profits for many of these businesses. Fewer customers mean fewer jobs mean fewer businesses and choices.

We’re also going to have to get creative in our role as consumers. The big box stores are going to do fine. There will always be customers for Walmart, Publix, Menards, Best Buy, etc. Amazon will always manage to turn a profit. It’s the small businesses, the ones owned by our friends and neighbors, the kitschy little shop with the unique gift ideas down on Main Street, that need our help. When you’re spending your money, if you can, go first to your local restaurants and shops.

But when you do, be sure and respect the owner’s rules for masks and safe distancing, whatever those rules might be. The more conscientious we are about living the “new normal”, perhaps the sooner we can get back to our “old normal”. Humans are a social animal, and I know this social animal doesn’t want to live the isolated life any longer than necessary.

Morning Coffee: Isolation During the Pandemic

feetBack in 2016 I wrote a blog entitled, “Lonely vs Being Alone”. I’ve been thinking about that lately while staying “safe-at-home”. My point was that being lonely wasn’t the same as being alone. As a writer and an introvert, I’m often alone. When it was first announced in March that our Governor was going to be mandating a stay-at-home policy for Wisconsin, which has since been extended through Memorial Day weekend, my thought was … no problem. I can do this. In fact, I was actually looking forward to it. You see, if both the Governor and the President said I had to stay at home, then who could insist I had to take time out of my day to do all sorts of other things they thought more important?

I have since come to realize staying at home because I want to is a lot more fun than staying home because I have to. Now I can come up with all sorts of places I’d rather be, people I want desperately to see and spend time with in person. Phone calls are great, Zoom has been fun, but they’re not the same as pouring a couple glasses of wine and visiting with someone who’s actually sitting right next to you.

I remind myself I’m not technically alone. My husband’s here with me. Oh, we do our own thing at our own computer in our own workspace, but he’s still here. And as annoying as this can be at times, I’m lucky to not be totally alone. I have a number of friends who are going through that right now. I can always go off in a different room for space, but I also know he’s always just feet away if I don’t want to be alone anymore.

So, even if you’re like me and occasionally wish your significant other would go away during this difficult time, remember those who don’t have that luxury. Make a phone call. Wave to him or her from their front yard. Also, don’t forget about all those lonely people out there you don’t know. Say a prayer for their health and safety.

If you are one of those people who are truly alone right now, or maybe you’ve never felt so alone, call someone. Reach out. Loneliness is a very real and growing problem right now.

Remember, this will end. We’re going to be all right. Not overnight, but we are a strong country and we will come back.

Stay safe!

Morning Coffee: What To Do In The Time Of COVID19

SummerWhen talk of shut-downs and quarantines for the coronavirus first began, I thought, “No problem. I’m an introvert who stays inside much of the time anyway. This way there’ll be no pressure to be out and about doing other things.” But I’ve discovered that’s not the case. You see, I like being inside and alone by choice, not because someone has required it.

I made a list of things I could be accomplishing. While this has helped, I’ve certainly been working on the list, it’s not always as much fun as I thought it would be. Here’s my list:

• Do additional research to flesh out my already roughed draft of my next book.
• Write a synopsis of each book in this trilogy so I know where I’m going when I start editing book 1.
• Rewrite Prologue of book 1 to give it more action, make it more engaging.
• Keep blogging!
• Read fiction, not just nonfiction research. It’s a great way to get away without leaving your home.
• Clean the house.
• Stock the pantry, best I can, and cook good meals.
• Go for walks…alone, unfortunately.
• Work on that big x-stitch project.
• Catch up on some Netflix. Again, a good way to get away.
• Call the friends I can’t see to keep in touch and make sure everyone’s all right.

Many things are cancelled. My Weight Watchers meetings have gone virtual. Church is now a weekly email with readings and a sermon attached. My hair is getting shaggy and my roots are showing!

These are trying times and keeping busy isn’t always enough. Depression can set in, even for those of us not prone to such feelings. For this reason, we have to make more of an effort to take care of ourselves. Showering regularly and not putting on the same grungy clothes every morning just because no one’s going to see us is a start. If you look better, you’ll feel better. It’s tempting to eat all the junk food we would normally try to avoid because, again, no one’s going to see us and, hey, these sweat pants still fit. (Wear your jeans now and then to make sure they still fit.) We might be tempted to drink more. Eating a quart of ice cream and polishing off a bottle of wine in your stained sweatpants while binge-watching your new favorite Netflix series in the dark is not a good idea . . . even in the best of times.

That’s why I must emphasize a couple items on my list more than the others. 1) Get outside, whether for a walk or to do yard work, weather permitting. It’s a great way to clear your head of the cobwebs and get a dose of vitamin D. 2) Call your friends, family members, your older community members who may be unable, or too afraid, to go out. Just talking to someone can brighten your day tremendously. You can laugh together at your excitement over finding the elusive toilet paper. (Honest to God, it felt like Christmas!) I talked with a writer friend/editor for over an hour yesterday. We’re putting together a group of us to do one hour of writing sprints at the same time every morning. A couple of us started today. A text tells us when to start and when to stop, then we check in with each other to report our progress. I wrote four pages, just over 1000 words, this morning. I hadn’t written anything new, except blogs, in a couple months as I got my book out, went on a three-week road trip, and then the disruption of the pandemic. I tell you, it felt really good. I know I’m not the only writer who feels her creativity had been suffering with all the routine changes. Not anymore.

And don’t forget your local small businesses that are allowed to be open but are struggling. Order take-out, then walk there to pick it up. And be sure to tip. Especially don’t forget your health care workers and first responders. Maybe that police officer patrolling your neighborhood would like a fill-up on his coffee. A friend of mine said she’s baking cookies to share. Others are sewing face masks and gowns. Stop them (but keep your 6 feet distance) and say thank you. A smile and a wave as they pass by. That might be enough. If you see a truck driver trying to get food but not being allowed to walk up to a drive through, stop and drive through for him. With so much closed, our truckers are struggling to keep the all-important supply chain moving. Helping others can quickly make your own load so much easier to bear.

What are you doing to get through these trying times? You might have an idea someone else never thought of.

Morning Coffee: When I’m Not Writing

20200305_091544What do writers do when they’re not writing? What have I done these past three weeks after the rush of publishing my first novel? I went on vacation.

My husband and I took a road trip…and we both arrived safely home without killing each other. We were gifted one week in a Sedona timeshare so we thought, why not make a road trip out of it? We’ll take our time going south, stopping wherever the interest strikes us. We’ll stop and surprise our pastor and his wife from our time in western New York. (They move to Arizona a couple years after we returned to Wisconsin.) We’ll swing down to Phoenix and take my nephew out to lunch, catch up on his schooling.

We spent the first night in Independence, MO, where we found a fantastic little BBQ roadhouse I swear is only known to the locals. We visited the Truman House, and then the Noland House across the street. (President Truman’s cousin lived there.) We stopped at the Federal Reserve Money Museum hoping they passed out samples. Unfortunately, not. But we did get a free little bag of finally shredded old money.

We were surprised to discover the WWI museum right next door to the Federal Reserve. What an amazing place! We could have easily spent several days there, but had to settle for one afternoon. I was particularly excited because my next book is set in 1918. Two of my three male leads are returning from the war to find their hometown besieged by the Spanish Flu Pandemic. I took many pictures from exhibits and bought two new research books.

On our way to Pueblo, CO, we came across a museum for Fort Wallace, KS. Pueblo turned out to be kind of cold and windy with warnings of snow coming over the mountains. But, in the end, the snow itself did not fall past the peaks and we were able to spend a relatively nice Sunday walking along the historic Riverwalk in downtown Pueblo, stopping to eat at a local brewery. Have you ever heard of a mimosa flight before? I hadn’t, only beer flights, but I thoroughly enjoyed mine.

The next day we wound our way over one of those snowy mountains to check out Golden Sand Dune Park. Ever-changing hills of sand along the base of rocky/snowy peaks. Awesome!

20200305_105636We continued on, staying in Santa Fe, NM, Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ, Flagstaff, AZ, before getting to Sedona. We made stops at the Petrified Forest and at the Meteor Crater. We visited a number of museums related to both the indigenous peoples and the pioneers.

Once in Sedona, we spent most of the week hiking (climbing) one beautiful red rock trail after another. When we weren’t hiking, we were enjoying all the different local restaurants. And I didn’t gain a single pound, despite the wonderful meals, desserts, and specialty margaritas!! I guess that whole exercise thing works.

What do writers do when they’re on vacation? They still write. When they’re not writing, they’re thinking about writing, planning what they’re going to write, reading what other authors write. There were some long days in the truck. I caught up on my trade magazines. I wrote four pages of notes planning my next three books, and I reread a favorite classic, “Giants In The Earth”.

So, I guess the answer to my question is, writers are always writing, even when only in their heads. But now I’m home again and the real work starts. My first box of copies has arrived and it’s time to start selling, planning signing events. There’s bookkeeping to set-up in preparation for all the money that’s going to start pouring in…I hope. There’s this blog to write.

And there’s the next book. There’s always the next book.

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Morning Coffee: Book Release

mary-bishop-final-smallIt’s an exciting day for me! “Mary Bishop” has been available in ebook for the past week at: https://books2read.com/u/3G2e18. And starting today, the book is available in paperback from Amazon.

I’m sitting here thinking what else do I say, but I find myself at a loss for words. This has been a dream for so long, and now it’s come true. It’s a lesson (I know this is corny) in perseverance, in believing in yourself, in never giving up.

If you buy it, I hope you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, think about telling your friends. Then consider leaving a review.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so read a romance, drink some wine, and snuggle close to your honey. I know it’s cold outside here.

Morning Coffee: One Step Closer

RevisionsEvery day I get a step or two closer to publishing “Mary Bishop”. I have a cover! It’s currently being refined, and it’s beautiful. All I imagined and then some.

Headway’s being made on proof-reading. My biggest lesson learned, it’s a good idea to periodically review the basics. In this case, the use of commas. Not that this is news to me, but it’s become more obvious as I re-read my manuscript with a critical eye. Afterall, we’re talking about my professional reputation. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, and nothing bugs me more than finding mistakes when I’m reading.

I’m researching the indie-publishing process. I need to apply for a state tax ID#. Yes, the government is going to want their share of my sales. I need to set up a designated bank account. It’s always a good idea to keep business finances separate from personal . . . and this is a business.

bookworm_imageThe work isn’t done when the book goes live. Then I need to be ready to promote. PR, selling myself and my book, will become top priority. That means more research. All this while working on my next book. The assumption is, once people read my first book, they’re going to want to read more.

Thankfully, I have a great network of published writer friends who can help me navigate the ins and outs of the indie publishing world. Friends who can help me avoid the mistakes they may have already made themselves. Then, one day I can help someone else.

Coming soon: The big cover reveal and a release date. Don’t miss it!