Friday, April 3, 2020

The Wee Hours of the Morning

Yesterday, I didn't wake up until four in the afternoon. My sleep schedule is a little off, but right, now it's not necessarily a bad thing.

I'm an empath. No, it's not like Deanna Troi on ST:TNG. Modern science is actual admitting we exist, but they call us "emotional sponges". And that's what we do--we soak up the emotions of people around us. Which can be bad or good depending on the situation.

In my case, the stronger the emotion the more powerful my reaction. Whenever a particular neighbor in Houston was trying quit smoking, I'd wake up with an intense craving for a cigarette. And I've never smoked in my life!

Right now, everyone's on edge about the damn virus, the stability of their jobs, money. So in addition to my own fears, I'm picking up everyone else's feeling in the damn apartment building because they are all stuck at home.

So how do I ease the static in the back of my brain? I wait until everyone else, including DH, goes to bed. There's a real peace that happens after one a.m. Everyone's asleep. Their conscious minds aren't emitting their emotions like quasars emitting massive amounts of radiation. My mind is alone with its thoughts for that portion of the night.

And I can step into my imaginary worlds and bring them to life.

There's something to be said about the peace of the witching hours, and I am at my most productive.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Camp NaNo Has Begun!

The nice folks that run NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month, has two "camps" during the year. The first one starts today.

Camp NaNo doesn't have any specific rules. The rules are what you make of them. You can write the traditional 50K in a month. You can finish a project you've been dragging your feet on. You can edit your latest project.

In this new world of limited contact, it's a nice way to keep in touch with your writing friends by gathering online.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Day 19 - Dealing with Stress and Depression

My blog posts have been showing up a little later every day. I admit I've been sleeping a lot more. Part of it is the damn near constant rain. I'm pretty sure the other part is low-level depression.

All the healthcare professionals who were treating me for cancer two years ago were surprised I wasn't depressed. The difference was I had some control over my treatment. I could research and make decisions. Whatever I did only affected my health, and I wasn't cut off from my loved ones.

The coronavirus is caused by another living organism. I have no control over it. I don't know when it'll strike. I can take precautions, but there's no guarantees. It's insidious and awful and killing people around the world.

So what am I doing to combat the feelings of helplessness?

I watched a DCEU marathon yesterday. Back-to-back Batman v Superman, Justice League, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman. Princess Diana and Harley Quinn always cheer me up.

I'm getting back into drawing. I bought a couple of notebooks and colored pencils. There's specific ideas for 888-555-HERO t-shirts I have in my head. If I get back into practice, maybe I can make them a reality.

And of course, I'm writing as best as I can. It's a little hard to maintain the story zone. I'll get about 500 words done before fears of our new world intrude. I try not to get mad and let the scattered thoughts have their way by doing something physical. Play with Bella, do a domestic chore, or work on covers for Alter Ego.

In the meantime, I'll get a few words in this afternoon and then watch Nine to Five. I'm in a Dolly Parton mood.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Working from Home in the Age of Coronavirus

It took DH and I a long time to learn how to work together when we both started working from home. It's a delicate dance that requires some patient and the ability to explicitly state what you need in a diplomatic way. And in homeschooling GK, it became an intricate dance.

Now, a lot of folks who've never worked from home before in their lives are being forced to figure out how to keep home and work separate. Even worse, they're dealing with kids at home because schools and daycares are closed.

So here's some tips to survive living, working, and schooling from home:

1) Figure out who's a morning person and who's an afternoon person. Seriously, this can go a long way into maximizing your productivity and minimizing your frustration.

Example: DH had to be online at 8 a.m. Monday thru Friday. GK played quietly in his room until I woke up. I handled admin tasks, homeschooling, and errands that needed done before 5 pm. After supper, the guys left me alone so I could write.

2) Who needs to be on the phone for their job?

Our mistake was having DH's office in the loft of our house Houston. In the beginning, he was constantly on the phone with clients, and the sound echoed through the entire house. Now, he's in the spare bedroom. He can close the door for calls. We don't interrupt him, and we don't hear everything.

3) How to signal you're in the middle of something?

The closed door is a good way, but we don't have an extra room for me. I was often in the living room on my laptop. The key for us was to check if Mom's wearing her earbuds. If she was, leave her alone unless there's blood or someone stopped breathing. However, GK was old enough to take care of himself.

But what about that magic time between learning to walk and can make their own peanut butter sandwich where you need to keep a closer eye on them? Look at it as a training period for boundaries. Give them some paper and pencils/pens/whatever and have them draw a picture for you while you're on that conference call with the main office in Miami. Now's the time to use bribing to keep your sanity.

4) Kids and screentime.

The coronavirus pandemic is a unique situation. Parents, don't get hung up on your kids' screentime right now. Even though it's spring, a good chunk of the country still has chilly weather. And even if it's nice outside, it's not smart to go to the playgrounds or have playdates right now. It sucks for all of us. So if a Harry Potter or Trolls movie buys you two hours of peace to get that spreadsheet done for your boss, don't sweat it!

I hope everyone's hanging in out there! Stay safe!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Day 14: Some Good Things

A lot of us are under lockdown orders from our cities or states here in the U.S. A lot of creatives have stepped up to keep us entertained during the coronavirus crisis.

Sir Patrick Stewart is promoting free streaming from CBS All Access from now until April 23rd using the code GIFT.

Amazon is allowing free access to kid's programming as well as some adult fare.

Amazon is also offering free streaming music. Many artists are doing free concerts from home on Facebook Live. In fact, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood managed to crash the Facebook Live server yesterday. LOL

Fellow authors are offering free or hugely discounted books. Here's some of my favorites:

My colleague and friend Libbie Hawker put a bunch her books on sale for $0.99. She writes historical literary fiction, and I highly recommend her Hatshepsut series.

The Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Trust discounted a ton of their books to $0.99-$2.99 including the volumes of Sword and Sorceress I'm in. If you have been wanting to pick them up, now's the time to do it.

Fellow sword and sorcery author Jonathan Moeller has the first book in his Ghost series, Child of the Ghosts, for $0.99. I love, love, LOVE this series. This was my go-to read while I was recovering from cancer surgery.

If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or you want to try out the 30-day FREE TRIAL (which is a good idea if you're going to be stuck in your home for the next month), I suggested the following cozy witch series:

Amanda M. Lee - Wicked Witches of the Midwest
Ellie Moses - Hillbilly Hexes Cozy Mysteries
Bella Falls - Southern Charms Cozy Mysteries


On top of that, ComiXology is offering a free 60-day trial.

Even better, studios are sending movies that were released in theaters right before things hit the fan straight to streaming services. As I mentioned Monday, the digital version of Birds of Prey was released. And I was super excited when I received an e-mail from Sony saying that Bloodshot was available yesterday as well.

I know things are nerve wracking with the current crisis, especially when it comes to jobs and money. DH and I are in the same boat as all of you. But hopefully, these cheap or free entertainments will brighten your week.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday Movie Mania - Birds of Prey

In all fairness, I dragged DH to see Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) in the theater on its release weekend. In the rush to finish a novel and get my taxes done before a writing workshop in Vegas back in February, I never typed up my review.

Damn, that all seems so long ago now.

I tried to set aside my preconceived notions of Birds of Prey when I went to the theater since I'd been collecting the comics

Anyway, since the digital and on-demand release is tomorrow thanks to the global pandemic, here's my thoughts as y'all seek to entertain yourselves while stuck at home.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Margot Robbie is the worthy successor to Arleen Sorkin who originated the role of Harley on Batman: The Animated Series. Margot's manic energy was the glue that held this movie together.

2) I squeed with fangirl delight at Rosie Perez's portrayal of Detective Renee Montoya.

3) Cathy Yan's direction was exciting and fun with a female eye to the action sequences.


CONS
1) Christina Hodson's script left something to be desired. I would have liked to have seen more character development in the DCEU versions of Dinah (Black Canary), Helena (Huntress), and Cass (Batgirl/Orphan). They wouldn't have had to stretch the 109-minute screen time that much to flesh out the ladies a little more.


Overall, this was a fun and crazy Harley story that will end up on my permanent shelf. I give it 9 stars out of 10.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020

Black Swan Events

Kris Rusch talked about Black Swan Events in her latest Business Musings blog yesterday. She discusses both bad decisions and good decisions over the course of her professional life. I suggest you read it.

For those who don't want to read Kris's blog, a Black Swan Event is an unpredictable event that changes the economy whether on a local stage or world wide.

I'm old enough now to have been through a few as an adult. And the irony is that each Black Swan happened in a different profession in my life.

1991 - The First Gulf War.

I worked as a computer consultant for DuPont. I'd moved to the east coast to get the heck out of Ohio. When the war broke out, part of me knew I should be looking for another job. Part of me knew no where in the U.S. was safe from the coming recession. I give DuPont some credit. When they announced one million lay-offs, they got rid of the contract workers like me first and retrained their employees from closed divisions for other jobs within the company.

Unfortunately, DuPont wasn't the only east coast employer laying off workers. I found myself competing with folks from IBM and DEC (they were the two biggest computer companies at the time) with twenty or more years of experience for jobs along the Atlantic states. I finally nailed a position after two months of solid job searching, but it meant moving back to Ohio.

2001 - The Trio

The beginning of the 21st century had not one, but three Black Swan Events. The first was the tech stock/dot.com crash in April. It unfortunately didn't effect just the dot.coms. DH and his partners had sold their consulting company two years prior, and the new conglomerate had planned to go public in May. Needless to say, that didn't happen, and it made DH's stock worthless.

In the meantime, I'd started a solo law practice. That was going well until 9/11. For those of you who remember, I don't have to remind you of the fear and uncertainty of the time.

Finally, there was the collapse of Enron and other corporations who'd overstated their earnings in an effort to keep the price of their stocks propped up. Enron in particular was the final straw in the Houston economy. I had no new clients because no one could afford my services. Even worse, other law firms were laying off attorneys and staff. A couple of months later, my lease expired and I had to pull the plug. The day I moved out of my office, I curled in a ball in my bed once I got home and cried. I tried practicing from my home for a while, but all the leads my friends threw me evaporated.

2008 - The Housing Crash

I'd been hired by a firm in Houston and was back to practicing law until health problems forced me to quit. Once again, I got a part-time job at a local Hallmark to make ends meet. Unfortunately, between my illnesses over 2006 and 2007 and GK needing two surgeries during that time, our money was stretched to the limit. When the crash occurred, the banks jacked up the interest rates on our credit cards to compensate for their loss of income. Stupid move on their part. We ended up defaulting on the credit cards, but thankfully not our house, though we did consult with an attorney concerning bankruptcy. It took us a long time to dig out from that mess. What's funny is that my income from writing erotica is what changed our financial landscape. *grin*

2020 - The COVID-19 Pandemic

After a series of life rolls from 2013 to being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, it took a lot of work in 2019 to get back into the writing and publishing game. I naively thought 2020 would be a breeze. Here we are, two and a half months into the year, and the world has essentially shut down. But that shut down is the only way to stop the spread of the virus.

In a world of chaos, you have to ask yourself, what can you do? What can you control?

In my case, I can control my writing. I have a stockpile of covers. I just need to finish the stories they belong to.

I can stay inside and away from people. The last thing I want to do is spread germs to people who may be even more vulnerable than me.

I can keep in to touch with friends and family who are in the same damn lock-down as I am. E-mails, texts, and phone calls go a long way, even if it's just commiserating with each other.

I throw what little money I have to people who need it. Buy a few covers. Tips for the workers at the carry-out windows. Buy a few books.

I can give Bella some extra cuddles and play time when I need a break. Extra hugs and kisses to DH who's trying very hard to be supportive to his employees and dad right now.

I remind myself that I've survived everything else Murphy, the one true god, has thrown at me.

It's too easy to get lost in the anxiety and fear right now, and to paraphrase Master Yoda, oftentimes that fear turns to hate. We don't know what the world's going to look like once we get to the end of this Black Swan. What we can do is look out for each other and to quote the Doctor, "Always be kind. Never cruel."

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Stuck at Home

First of all, a shout out to some unsung heroes who aren't getting any kudos in the coronavirus epidemic--the folks that work in the utilities fields. Do you have natural gas, electricity, and/or water in your house? What about phone service whether it be cell or landline? That's because these people are still going to work and doing their jobs. So a big thank you to these workers!

I don't think I had that much of a social life until I started rescheduling or postponing some activities. And I'm sitting here right now, questioning whether I should cancel my dentist appointment next week.

Also, Carrie Vaughn's latest book, The Immortal Conquistador, dropped last Friday for those looking for an awesome read. It's the latest in her Kitty Norville series.

If you're sitting at home fretting about finding good information online, I suggest reading Bob Mayer's blog. Bob is ex-Special Forces and a longtime writer. His Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide is a start if you weren't ready for a long stay at home. There's a lot of scams out there right now, but in Bob, I trust.

Finally, I blew off writing yesterday after the twelve hours of will-we/won't-we have voting in Ohio. It wasn't just the Democratic primary on the ballot. There were several school levys. With school cancelled in the entire state until April (for now), I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our local district can reopen its doors once it's safe to do so without the operating levy it desperately needs.

I contacted friends and talked with writing colleagues for a good chunk of the day. I did get a little bit of editing done, but I really need to buckle down on the current wip.

In the immortal words of Sergeant Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there."