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.

* * *


* * *

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.

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/ 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."

Monday, March 16, 2020

Corona Virus Pandemic Day 5

A lot of people are freaking right now. It's not the lack of toilet paper on the shelves. It's the lack of certainty of when this crisis will end.

I get it. I do. I faced this lack of certainty when I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. Because with every fucking test, the situation became worse. Both my oncologist and I were researching our butts off and came up with a plan we both were comfortable with.

So, I'm taking the COVID-19 shit seriously because I didn't go through all that crap to die of some stupid virus. The first person died in the U.S. the same day I returned from Las Vegas. At that point, it was obvious containment was a lost cause. I've stayed in our apartment since I returned, other than a couple of necessary errands.

So how do we deal with our quarantine?

Well, DH found Pepsi Max, chip dip, and bagels for me when he went out to pick up his prescriptions and fill the gas tank on his car. (He'd filled mine and Genius Kid's earlier in the week.) He keeps my glass filled with ice and Pepsi while I've been catching up on the personal and business administration stuff that had been neglected between my class in Las Vegas and finishing the latest book. He calls his dad daily to make sure he's okay. He's doing what he can to fulfill his role as caretaker. It's his way of self-soothing.

I could be freaking about the lack of sales like so many of my colleagues. Mine died the day I came home from Las Vegas. But I'm not going to. We haven't hit the new "normal" yet. Until we do, there's no way of analyzing the real effects this crisis will have on my business. For now, I'm simply thankful that my readers haven't cancelled their per-orders.

I've had the TV on over the weekend while I've been entering receipts into the accounting software and uploading the 888-555-HERO series on the other retail platforms. Not the news, but Supernatural, Bones, The Harry Potter marathon on the SyFy channel, Star Trek:Beyond, and Scorpion.

Today, I'm jumping on the next book to write. I can't control this virus or anyone's reaction to it, but I can write my stories. That's the best remedy I know.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

It Almost Feels Like the Blizzard of '77

How many of you out there remember that winter?

Snow so deep you didn't just lose your car, but your house as well. And a couple weeks later after the streets and roads had been dug out, we still didn't have school because it was so damn cold, the school furnaces couldn't keep up even if there had been enough fuel. You gotta remember, this was in the middle of the Energy Crisis. (If you're younger than forty-three, you might need to look it up.)

That's what it feels like now. You know something's coming. You can't get out of its way. All you can do is prepare, hunker down, and hope for the best.

Governor DeWine has shut down K-12 public schools in Ohio for the next three weeks. A lot of colleges around us are going to online classes.

My father-in-law's assisted living facility is forcing everyone to use one entrance. Also, everyone is getting checked for symptoms when they enter: residents, staff, and visitors alike. And residents are restricted to one visitor per day. FIL is finding the whole thing amusing.

[Edit to add: FIL's facility has now gone on total lockdown. They're not taking ANY chances. I'm glad the manager and staff are taking this seriously. For those residents who aren't tech savvy, the staff is setting up Facetime, Skype, or other video conferencing for the residents and their families.]

DH's company has suspended travel and shut down their offices around the world. Everyone's working from home, but then, the majority of their employees already did so.

Genius Kid's military base is on lockdown for now. No one's allowed to leave except for the drill sergeants who live off base. And that may change depending on circumstances.

We went out for a couple of things yesterday evening we would absolutely need for the next three weeks--dog food, dog treats, frozen pizzas, and low-dose aspirin. I wanted some extra Pepsi Max because I'll working on the next Millersburg Magick Mysteries book. Alas, the Pepsi shelves were as empty as the toilet paper shelves. The weirdest thing the grocery store was out of--Dean's French Onion Dip. Seriously. Chip dip was totally gone. And all the bagels except for onion.

I'd already stocked up on tissues, Sudafed, and acetaminophen because allergy seasons has already started in abnormally warm and wet northwest Ohio. I have plenty of tea and coffee, not to mention a family-size bag of Doritos and Lays wavy chips.

It's a little disappointing a few movies I wanted to see at the theater are having their releases delayed. It's even more disappointing that I had to cancel plans for a research trip the first weekend in April.

But frankly, seeing a movie or visiting a haunted house is not worth my life. And it's definitely not worth spreading the virus around to other people who are in the vulnerable category like me.

In between writing sessions, I've got plenty of books, music, movies, and TV to keep me occupied, including one of my favorite series, Seven Days.

So be smart, take precautions, and Cthulu's sake, QUIT HOARDING THE DAMN TOILET PAPER!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Friday, March 6, 2020

Sales Dropping in the World's Chaos

A lot of fellow indies claim they're seeing a drop in sales over the last few months. I was going to address this in today's post, but Kris Rusch did a much more elegant and thorough job yesterday in her business post.

I strongly recommend if you own or run a business, even if you're not a writer, you need to read Kris's post on Disruption.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Social Conciousness or How to Step into a Minefield Because I Have No Choice

I wasn't going to write this particular post, but I ran across this article about Norman Rockwell yesterday. His bravery and conviction over painting social justice issues during the '60s and '70s made me realize things haven't changed in the fifty-some years since he produced The Problem We All Live With.

One of the big cautions experienced writers tell newbies is not talk about politics or religion. Normally, I would agree when it comes to social occasions. Who needs an upset stomach after a wonderful dinner by arguing with your dinner companions?

Things are a little different when it comes to art. The artists' inner feelings are going to come out regardless of their intent. Sometimes, they don't even realize it. On the other hand, a consumer comes in with their own biases, and those biases color their perception of what the artist has done.

I don't think of my writing as particularly political. My primary goal is to write realistic people in fantastic situations and doing fantastic things, but never losing their basic humanity. Some of the best compliments I received involve the characters of Harri Winters and Aisha Franklin from the 888-555-HERO series. Readers have commented they are the type of girlfriends the readers would love to have in real life. Honest, loyal, and always ready to dish over coffee or wine.

However, there are other readers. While they grudgingly admit my books are well-written, they don't like my themes, or most especially the racial/gender construction of my casts.

I've been accused by readers of being a social justice warrior, a feminist propagandist, and anti-white. I freely admit to being a SJW and a feminist. Few people go into the legal profession without a little bit of those qualities. Civil rights were the basis of the colonies exiting the British Empire, and they should extend to EVERY human in this country.

The anti-white shit comes from white nationalists. The "if you're not with us, you're against us" absolutists.

Uh, no. Definitely not anti-anything except bullies. One great-great-grandfather and his two brothers got the fuck out of Bavaria around the time of the Franco-Prussian War, back when Prussia was pushing for a unified Germany whether anyone wanted it or not. That mentality carried over for the next century, resulting in the devastation of WWII.

Another great-great-great-grandfather fled Ireland in the midst of the Potato Famine.

What do these have in common? It's white on white suppression. It's bully mentality.

As I've said many times before on this blog, I don't like bullies. I don't give a fuck what color they are or what's between their legs. Treating someone else like shit just because you can pisses me off.

I grew up with that crap, mainly from my own family. The only time my mother was proud of me was when I bullied someone else. I'm totally ashamed of my behavior, and once I was old enough to understand what was really happening, I swore never to do it again.


And I do my best to do right by other people. I don't always succeed, and I apologize when I know I've fucked up. And if it looks like I don't know I did something wrong, please correct me.

In the meantime, if you think white nationalism is the way to go, then my books are definitely not for you. This isn't a political stance. It's a human one.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Wild, Wicked & Wacky Rewind from 2019

Last year, I finally found my rhythm as a writer again. You have no idea how excited I was when I wrote this post for May 15, 2019.


Hero De Novo (888-555-HERO #3) went live this morning on Amazon! If you pre-ordered this book, it should be on your Kindle now. Otherwise, it's available for purchase, or you can read it for free through Kindle Unlimited!

With Captain Justice presumed dead, Aisha faces raising her super baby as a single mother. A message from Asia gives her a glimmer of hope. But is it Rey, or a Corvus trap to take her son?

In the meantime, Patty’s baby daddy, the super assassin Black Death, comes out of the woodwork, filing for custody of Grace. Harri will do anything to keep her goddaughter out of Black Death’s clutches, but will she step across her personal legal and ethical lines to save Grace?

Can both attorneys win the day with their team split up and on different continents?

Call us at 888-555-HERO. The Law Offices of Winters & Franklin, where the only thing more dangerous than a superhero is his attorney.

If you missed last month's release, Hero Ad Hoc (888-555-HERO #2) is still available for purchase or to read through Kindle Unlimited.

If you're enjoying the adventures of Harri, Aisha, and their gang and want to see more, please drop me a line!
And if you haven't picked up the first book in the series, Hero De Facto, it's currently still available for purchase on Amazon or to borrow through Kindle Unlimited.

If you're enjoying these books, I'd appreciate it if you would drop a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thank you so much for reading!