NaNo Winner — almost.

 I’m almost done with NaNo. 48,300 words as of this morning. 1700 words to go.

I can’t believe I made it. I haven’t written a novel in a year or two, choosing instead to edit the ones I already have. I’m writing a romance novel, and despite the fact that I’ve got a romance novel published (A shameless plug for The Kringle Conspiracy), I still feel like I don’t get romance novels.

And then there’s the pandemic and the election, and our current president acting like the supreme leader of a banana republic (which I suspect is unfair to banana republics everywhere), I felt stressed enough to quit a couple times. But I didn’t.

But it’s nearly done, and then I will edit and edit and mercilessly edit. There are things I want to add, and probably a couple places I want to condence. I think promising myself ten pages a day should help the process.

Ahh. I never thought I was going to finish this one!

How are you doing?

I have readers all over the world, and I’m curious. How are you doing in this pandemic?

  • Are you isolating? 
  • Are you wearing a mask when you go out in public? 
  • Is your country doing well in fighting back the outbreak? 
  • Are you safe? 
  • Do you have your job? 
  • Are you hanging on? 
  • Are you fighting depression?
I’m doing okay. I’m fighting a bit of something because life lately has been depressing, what with isolation and all. I’m safe at home. I still have my job as a professor, where I have been doing my work online. Just hanging on.

A Pretty Good Life

So today is my one day of summer break. My online class (the one I’m taking) starts tomorrow while the internship I’m teaching starts Tuesday. But those classes will still give me plenty of time for writing because I’m stuck here anyhow. 

So what am I doing for summer break? Baking some bread. Editing some writing. Making my own personal recipe of thousand-year-sauce chicken. Planting some lamb’s ear and garlic chives. Drinking more coffee. Petting the cats. In other words, business as usual because, frankly, I have a pretty good life.

Girlie-Girl working hard on a Sunday.

Richard is making more coffee while I type this. The cats are lounging in various areas of the house. Eric Satie’s Gnossiene No. 2 is playing on the stereo. It’s chilly outside, but it will warm up by the time I’m ready to plant new plants. 

There’s a new, beat-up spider plant in the window. I’m going to try to give it a good life, too. I mean it’s really beat up to the point where I think I need to remove most of the biggest leaves. But it will survive and so will we. 

Daydreaming a Summer Break

Sorry to keep you all waiting, but I had to finish grading final exams for my last class. I’m officially done with my semester, which if you read yesterday’s post, doesn’t feel like an ending at all. I’m wondering if going tent camping in my backyard would feel like a vacation. At my age, it would probably feel like torture.

Honestly, if I could afford a travel trailer, I’d park it out at the nearby park for the summer just to feel like I’d gotten away from people. I like that idea — it would make a perfect writing retreat. Home away from home, and even wifi (not excellent wifi, but passable). 

A cabin out in the woods would be nice. If it had wifi. I need to have my internet to monitor students and the like. 

I’m just not ready to break the shelter-in-place and be in space with lots of people. I’m certainly not going to take the face mask off the few times I’m anywhere near people. 

It just doesn’t feel like summer without my little writing retreat.

The Seasonless Year under COVID-19

I can’t tell what season it is.

In academia, we have a defined year with three seasons. It starts in fall with the first day of classes, and fall semester ends with Christmas. In January, the spring semester rolls around, and it’s of slightly different character than fall semester, lacking the tinsel and greens of December and adding the bacchanalia of Spring Break. The school year ends at the beginning of May, and even though I supervise internships and take an online course for my Disaster Mental Health certification, the change in routines — no faculty meetings, flexible schedule, time to take a vacation — marks that a season has passed. Until the end of summer, when we start preparing our classes for the school year.

I have no such thing this year.

We started online classes in March, which made the school year feel like an endless prep period, typing on our computers and missing the face-to-face interaction. I’m answering emails from students at 9 PM and at 5 AM, so I feel like I’m always working. We’re going from that to summer — but the freedom of travel has evaporated with COVID-19’s sequestering.  So I’ll spend the summer working with my interns online using Zoom, and the flexibility of my time will not matter. Days are melting into a sameness, and that sameness is work without any defined boundaries. 

I admit that I’m getting a decent amount of writing done because I have to do something with the time I’m not working on student stuff. And I’m grateful that I can shelter in place, as my age and weight makes me at risk for a more severe infection. But I find my rejoicing at summer terribly muted, because there is no summer. I wonder when there will be a summer again.

A reading that seems to corroborate my current feelings:

Monday Morning

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Monday morning, which seems a lot like every other day in this pandemic — I have two cats at my workstation (the corner of the loveseat in the living room), and I’m drinking coffee.

Today is work (the ordinary type where I have to grade final exams for classes) and work (the writing type where I look at what I’ve written and what it needs). I’ve done fixes on Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies, and it’s time to apply it to Apocalypse.

You see, now I know what my problem is. I started right into the action and didn’t give the story its moments to develop characters and scene.  I hope I’m doing it right this time.

Musing on Mortality

In the pandemic, I’m thinking of my own mortality.

I’m 57 years old with a spate of minor health problems. I’m of the age where I start to fit into higher risk categories. Given my age, I’m closer to the thing that’s going to kill me than I used to be. If it’s not coronavirus, it will be something else.

I’m trying to come to terms with this. It doesn’t help that 70s music reaches deep into my soul and connects with my childhood, and it’s almost 50 years old, or that I actually find myself saying “I don’t like today’s music.” (That’s not totally true; I love ambient and electronica, Beirut, and modern singer-songwriter types.)

I’m going to die someday. I’ve honestly never looked at it that way before. I’m going to die sooner or later. Coronavirus, cancer, heart disease, old age. I’m hoping for the latter, because I have books to edit and write. I’m hoping my death isn’t painful, that it’s merciful, and that I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do before then. I hope I’m ready for it, or that it catches me so much by surprise I don’t have time for regret.

I don’t know if there’s a heaven, honestly; most conceptions of heaven seem very — well, exclusive, like Heaven is a country club where only certain Christians can enter. (This goes with the attitude of “love everyone, even if you’re certain they’re going to Hell). I have fantasies about the afterlife, that it’s the extended family I never knew how to have when I was younger, and we’re having a big banquet in harmony. I know this is a fantasy and that the only way I will live on is in people’s memories of me, unless (as I sometimes hope) my consciousness mingles with the stardust.

I try not to dwell upon this too much — after all, I have things to accomplish and depression won’t get me anywhere. Still, musing on mortality is a sign of the times.


I’m late to writing today because we have intermittent Internet outages here. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because I have two video meetings today — one with one of my colleagues about internships for the summer (which are pretty rocky right now) and one to congratulate some of my interns for a good semester. (This is part of their celebration with a local placement who treats their interns well). 

My home computer is malfunctioning again. Same problem as before (no cursor), except that I haven’t been able to shame it into working again. It apparently has to do with a Windows update. Why is Windows Update killing my computer?

I have become frighteningly tied to my computer during this pandemic. I interact with students and faculty, grade assignments, look up things, surf occasionally for fun, make social contact, write/revise my novels, submit queries … Right now the computer is the only contact I really have with the outside world. Because my files are on Dropbox, I can’t even access them without my fiber connection when the fiber connection goes out.

I am going to have to find some workarounds. I have a wireless hot spot, but it needs some data added to it. We’re going to do that before Richard leaves for work today. I can draft using paper and fountain pen, or even better — I have a livescribe pen that does an pretty good job rendering my handwriting into digital (I bought it for $30 — I highly advise buying gently used high-tech items on ebay or amazon). 

This moment reminds me that there are always workarounds, but sometimes they take effort and money and time to find. Glasses are a workaround for those of us without perfect vision. Insulin is a workaround for people with pancreatic dysfunctions. Cars are a workaround for people who can’t walk 20 miles into work. I’m in a pretty good place for workarounds, although if my computer doesn’t start working properly, there might be an expensive workaround in my future. But one I likely can afford.

We can’t expect people with limited resources to make workarounds without help. This is why the response to quarantine has been so difficult for education. Some of our students don’t have access to computers at home. Some live in large families in apartments and don’t really have privacy. Some don’t have Internet. So we try the best we can to facilitate their education. 

We need workarounds. Because plans aren’t always perfect, because things (and people) break. Embrace the workaround.

A Sunday Morning in the Age of COVID

(There was to be a picture here, but for some reason I can’t get my pictures to mail to me.)

Sunday mornings in my house: 

This much hasn’t changed: Classical music in the background — today it’s an album of violin concertos. 

Coffee — currently we’re drinking a store-bought coffee; usually we drink beans that Richard roasts himself. 

Cats — there are four, although one seldom comes upstairs. One of them, Girlie (the patched tabby with the attitude) is sitting next to me. She helps me get my work done.

Now, in the time of COVID: Breakfast is usually cereal, but in the quarantine I’ve discovered that I like playing with sourdough starter, and so sourdough bread as french toast is the featured meal of the day. I will make more sourdough bread later. I’ve named my starters: Marcy is a Polish whole wheat starter, Horatio is a home-captured wild yeast, and MarcyxHenrietta is an accidental batch that got spiked by the yeast water known as Henrietta.

My computer — I work on my writing on Sundays. Normally, I would be on my way to the cafe to write for a while. Now I write in a corner of the living room, burgundy and gold. I hate to be far from the action, which is part of why I used to write at the coffee shop. I miss the coffee shop.

The view through the window — all the snow from the freakish snowstorm has melted, and the sky is a blue-grey. I need to get out, even if it’s just a trip in the car to the local park.

Today, for some reason, feels like Easter (which it is for the Orthodox faiths) and I have hope that we will rise from this pandemic a more thoughtful people.