Monday, March 23, 2020

Overwhelmed, The New Normal, New Skills, and Publications

Overwhelmed

With COV-19 on our doorsteps (or at least at mine in Washington State, Pierce County), it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the news, rumors, and fear going around.

I think I've been pretty overwhelmed for the past ten days.

My dad went to the ER for an erratic heart rhythm which was discovered at the beginning of a monthly procedure he has to keep his bones strong. My mom couldn't go in with him. It makes sense, but she wasn't prepared. I stayed with her for hours in the parking lot. I bought her coffee and a sandwich to go (that's the only way our restaurants and coffee shops work here now) and we ate outside on a bench next to the hospital. We talked on the phone with a cousin. We laughed. We prayed. We sang.

My dad is okay. Our lives have returned to new normal.

New Normal

My daughters are both still away from home because their college campuses are in cities where the virus hasn't hit. I talk to them every day. I would love to hug them. But I want them to stay away from the contagion zone.

This is especially true now that someone from my husband's workplace has been tested positive. My husband doesn't normally work with this person or have contact with them and the last time that person came into the office was eight days ago. It is unlikely that my husband could have caught it there, but all of a sudden, the possibility is super close. My husband is working from home this week. He works for a public utility, but is not considered an essential worker. The Zoom meetings and conference calls are continuous because he does work for a utility company. Customers still need help. Work is still ongoing. (Because we all want our electricity and internet, right?)

Meanwhile, my students (tutored, coached, and mentored) are meeting with me through Zoom.
I am doing all my property management work through phone, text, and computer apps.

We had church online. We met our life together group via Zoom. I went to a Bible study via Zoom.
Tomorrow, I will go to Bible Storytelling via Zoom. Two weeks ago, I had never heard of Zoom. Now it's part of my every day life.


New Skills

In addition to all the new normal of life, I've decided to finally just do Youtube Videos. I've been thinking about it for years. But I never did it. I know I probably should wait until I have it all figured out perfectly - in fact, my next videos will probably be of much higher quality than my first four (yes, four), but I decided to have a "Send It" attitude. They are pretty basic, just shot from my phone, but if you're interested, here's a sample:



Again, the next group of them will be of higher quality via my husband's camera (he shoots videos for dance recitals and performances). Then, I'll add in some more skills and so, onward!

PUBLICATIONS

In addition to all of the stress, I've actually had some awesome positives happen, like getting two short pieces published in the last week.

On January 16, Creative Colloquy published my short story "A Companion for the Journey." This story is about an AI and shows a slice of her life and a decision she makes. The tone is more I, Robot than Terminator.

Yesterday, The Drabble published my piece "Sticks and Stones." This short piece is a poetic prose protest about bullying and suicide. It was inspired by the poem of a friend's daughter who was dealing with the aftermath of a suicide at her middle school. Sometimes, I write fiction, and sometimes, I write from life. This is a painful, but true-to-life piece. If you read it, make sure you read to the end, which is "We cling to faith / that is all."




Monday, March 16, 2020

Uncertain Times and Finding a Core Purpose


I live in Washington State, the epicenter of the CoV-19 in the USA. I'm even from the second county it hit here. I think it's the first time I've experienced being at the front of a storm, a tidal wave that's rolling across the country. It's not comfortable. It's full of uncertainty.

And yet, as I see so many friends and family members I know across the US just beginning to struggle with the issues that have faced my area, I feel oddly "in the know." Even if my city, county, and state are just a week or two ahead, I feel like I can give warning to friends and family on the other side of my state (Washington is separated by a mountain range and both sides have very different lifestyles, cultures, and politics - big city to country), onto the next states over, and so on across the continent.

If you haven't had it happen yet, here's what's coming in terms of the measures that have been taken to slow the spread of the virus:

1. Schools will close at all levels. Some schools will offer online classes. Some will just close. Some will say it's for two weeks, some will say it's for six weeks, and some will just graduate their seniors and close.

2. Colleges will go online. Some colleges will keep lab classes open. Some won't. Some will shut down their dorms. Some haven't yet ... but I think they will. Again, some colleges will graduate their seniors without ceremony.

3. If you didn't know yet (I'm sure you do), NCAA sports practices are cancelled. If your child is on a team, they will have even less reason to stay on campus even if the dorms are still open.

4. Businesses will be asked to have their employees work from home or look for ways to reduce the number of hours spent in the office - across all businesses, even ones we think of necessities.

5. Libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, and all entertainment centers will close.

6. Bars, shops, and restaurants will either close or go to "only take out" services. (This means many, many people will be out of work. See my after-thoughts on this.)

7. Gatherings will be limited to 250 people, then down to 50 people. This means places of worship will close and go to online streaming type services, or online worship that's recorded.

8. You will be asked by community leaders like Pastors, business owners, and others to stop gathering with more than 10 people at a time.

9. Unless you have a high temp or are showing symptoms of the virus, your doctors' appointments will get cancelled and you will be asked to stay away from medical centers. If you have the symptoms, you are supposed to phone in and discuss the symptoms with a medical professional before going in. Emergencies are still emergencies, but otherwise, don't go. This is to keep the virus from spreading and to keep our medical workers as healthy and rested as possible. (Some medical appointments are being kept in secure, private chat rooms.)

10. Be prepared to see people behave badly. But also, be prepared for generosity.

And, this is just a tip. We are stronger together. Even if we can't be together as much in person, we can help each other.

Churches and other community centers are organizing help lines for people who need groceries or need delivery of groceries.

Many online education sites are offering free services for a limited time.

A friend of mine who owns a dance studio is offering free, streaming dance classes for her students and for anyone who wants to check in during her online schedule.



When you hunker down and consider all of what's going on, what's your core purpose in this? 
What can you do to help others?

Yes, we all need to take care of our health and our families, but what can we do to bring peace, joy, and care to those in our communities who need it most?

As I've been considering this, I've realized I have ways I can be of service, despite having some of my own health concerns:
1. I have a degree in education and I home-schooled my daughters. I can offer home education tips and help to parents online. I will be posting more here and on Youtube soon.

2. I believe in Jesus as my Savior. He is my rock and my refuge. Jesus asks us to Love God and Love Others like He loved us. (I can give out Bible verses on this, if you need them). I can offer up some hope, faith, love, and peace with my own faith walk - even if I stumble a bit now and then - maybe especially because I stumble and God can use that somehow to show that His grace is sufficient? I'm still considering what this looks like. I am definitely praying.

3. I have a quirky, but sometimes morbid and salty, sense of humor. I can post a few bits of this here and there. I think laughter is beneficial and healthy for all of us. I think God laughs. He invented laughter and humor. (He must have, really, when you think about it.)

4. I can keep writing. And publishing. One of my projects that I haven't mentioned much about on this blog is for my faith community. It's called Walking with Jesus: Stories of Faith from One Hope Church. I hope to finish it soon so it can be of help and comfort to those who need stories of what faith looks like in every day life - not super-hero faith, but super-regular faith with an amazing savior.

What's your plan in this?









Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday Motivation - Storytelling Questions and Book Reviews


“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

-Brandon Sanderson, fantasy and science fiction writer


What questions are you asking in your writing?


BOOK REVIEWS

After the Sky by Milo James Fowler is a thrilling, action-packed and thought-provoking adventure!
In a post-apocalyptic world, survivors who have been trapped in bunkers come up to meet the Earth and find themselves infected by something ... something that changes them, sometimes speaks to them, something that changes their course and destiny. While they may have been segregated into bunkers for specific purposes, those purposes change as they fight to survive in a world where the spirits speak and super-powers are real. 

Is Milton hearing voices? Are they in his head or are they real? He's haunted by the sins of his past, and at least one of the spirits seems intent on killing him.

Is Dainya only able to see in the dark or does her vision pierce time and distance to see the future?

And, Luther, is he strong enough to keep his men working towards survival or will he lose his leadership?

I loved this action-packed book filled with thought-provoking moments! Each character may be getting pushed in one direction or another, but they still have powerful choices to make and powerful abilities to use. Not everyone who has survived is on the same side. Not everyone wants abilities. Some will do anything to ensure the survival of a human race that is free from any change - but is that truly human and humane? 

This thrilling, post-apocalyptic novel had me on the edge of my seat through the twists, turns, and action-packed plot. 5 of 5 stars! 

READING AROUND THE WORLD

Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane and Hoda Hadadi is a beautiful story of a young girl in West Africa and her quest to understand the mulafa. 

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson is an exciting MG novel about a young woman dog sledder and her quest to win a dog sledding race in the Canadian wilderness while she's losing her vision.
I loved, loved, loved this novel!
And, my dad read it while dog-and-cat sitting and he loved it.
One of the best library reads of 2020 so far.


READING GRAPHIC NOVELS AND GRAPHIC-PROSE MASH-UPS

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest is my second favorite library read of 2020 so far.
It's a mix of graphic novel and prose novel and it's an excellent mystery set in Seattle.
Loved it!







Wednesday, March 4, 2020

March IWSG 2020 and Traditions in Fiction Form

Many thanks to our founder Alex J. Cavanaugh and all of the co-hosts!


OPTIONAL QUESTION: Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

SIMPLE ANSWER:
Last year, I wrote a short flash fiction piece which included a bit about Advent candles, but that's it.

And, an insecure thought provoked by this question and my answer:
Honestly, I feel this is an area I need to work into my writing. Even in SF and Fantasy worlds, characters must celebrate traditions, right? And yet, I haven't really included any.

What I plan to do to fix this problem in my current work:
1. My mom, grandma, and I sang when I was a child and teen. My dad would whistle, or play harmonica, or sing with us. It was a kind of family tradition, especially on car trips. My grandma would play spoons sometimes.  In one mad NaNoWriMo session, the characters in Here There Be Dragon Slayers (or THAT Dragon book) burst into song while traveling in one scene. I'm going to keep that scene and add in a singing "tradition."
Guess who is making an appearance as a side character?* (See answer at the end of this post.)

BTW, if you don't know what playing spoons looks like, check out this video with Soundgarden and the Spoonman from Seattle (a street performer I got to see live when I was growing up):



Or, see this video, which is a bit more like how my grandma played spoons, except she also sang. Her brother used to play banjo:


2. In Anomalies book 2 (okay yes, I need to finish fixing book 1), I have a Halloween costume planning scene and a Halloween trick-or-treating scene gone wrong with my original draft. The whole book is going to have to change in large chunks, but I want to keep that part somehow because it helped me discuss costuming and super-powers, plus it helps develop Ray's character more. Ray is nearly equal to Dunnie in MC awesomeness. I thought about changing it with Ray as the MC, but that just didn't work for the whole book and really struck me the wrong way, so Dunnie is still lead, but Ray is right there with him as his enemy-turned-friend (Not much spoiler there, really, if you read my flash fiction story about them - which started this whole project).

IWSG NEWS

The IWSG Goodreads Book Club has offered up two choices of books this month. You can participate by reading either Chill Factor by Sandra Brown or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.



IWSG Instagram is hosting a Blarney Contest. Rules are as follows:
1. You must participate on Instagram. In the comments or on your own feed. If you participate on your own feed, you MUST tag @theIWSG on Instagram. Otherwise, I won't be able to find your story and you won't be able to receive the prize (fame, infamy, a shout-out). 
2. The stories must be 100 words or less and include one or more of the following three elements:
The Blarney Stone
One character using flattery/charm on another
A Leprechaun
3. The winner will be awarded the Best Blarney Award (a picture for Instagram) and given a shout-out on the IWSG Instagram page. (That's it, sorry, no monetary award, just a bit of shout-out for fame and infamy). 
4. The entries must be posted between March 10-17.
Remember, this contest is ONLY on Instagram. 


*If you guessed Maud from "Of Words and Swords" from the IWSG Fantasy Anthology Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, you would be right.