The Year of Panic and Boredom

Like most of humanity, I am beyond thrilled to see 2020 coming to an end. Plenty of good things happened this year: I switched to a new team at work, and love my job; my sisters and I got our parents moved to an independent living place (their brand-new apartment is larger than my entire house); I had my most productive writing day ever (17,732 words in one day…I still can’t believe I did that!); and I got back in touch with my two college roommates! But wow, am I looking forward to 2021. 🙂

This year I learned that I can spend the entire work day in my office, then continue to stay in the same room in the evening while I’m writing or on a video call. It’s like I’m an astronaut, and have adapted to being stuck in a tiny space—although it’s not nearly as fun as being an astronaut. I also learned that just because I spend most of my waking hours in my office, that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend much (if any) of that time going through the piles of papers and boxes stacked (mostly) off-camera. And boy am I glad I stopped coloring my hair two years ago, and didn’t have to deal with growing it out on top of everything else 2020 brought.

I realize that the end of the year is an arbitrary spot in time to pin one’s hopes on. The other day I was talking about this with a friend of mine who she pointed out that the Chinese New Year is in February, and other cultures celebrate their new years at various times throughout the year. I’m going to stick with my excitement for 2021. Even if this is an arbitrary date, it still feels like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think. 🙂

Lately I’ve been doing a LOT of editing, and not much writing. My thoroughly thought-out plans for 2020, which included a writing and publishing schedule that even had time added in for unforeseen events, were of course completely derailed. I ended up with a bunch of anthologies stacked on each other this fall: The Wild Hunt, Hauntings, the first ever Pikes Peak Writers anthology (which I’m working on with three other trusty volunteers), a magicky/witchy anthology that is almost ready to publish, the sixth faerie anthology, and the next issue of Amazing Monster Tales (which also got hammered by my co-editor’s unplanned life events). I’m finally almost caught up on all of these projects. I have to do edits for the last anthology, but I’m not going to start those for another week or two because I’m focusing on a few writing projects. I am off from the day job until next week, and set aside this time to write.

And speaking of writing, I am happy to report that my short story “Gilroy and the Kitten” is in a new collection called A Cat of Heroic Heart! This is book 7 of The Year of Cat, a series edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. I have been catless for over a decade now, and will remain so until we built a utility room, since there is no good place for a litterbox in our house. I can’t make that happen any faster—we have a lot of remodeling projects that have to happen before we get to this one. So for now I have to make do with writing about cats. This particular story is about Gilroy, whose person is a witch, and the witch’s niece, who accidentally turns herself into a kitten.

The book I’m working on also has a cat…and a witch. 🙂 It feels kind of weird to be getting back to this project after so long, but it also feels really good. I’ve got first drafts of 1.5 books, and plan to write at least three books in this series (probably more, I just haven’t thought past book 3 yet). It’s a little intimidating to be working on a series of novels, but I know once I actually write multiple books in this series I’ll feel comfortable with the concept, just like once I wrote my first novel I realized I could write more novels. The first time I do something new writing-wise seems to be the hardest—which doesn’t mean subsequent projects are always easy. 🙂 But once I’ve done a thing, I know I’m capable of doing that thing again. Let’s see how much I can get written before the end of my week off!!!

Rosie and Jasper playing with their Christmas toys

And then there were three again!

Once upon a time, I went to college and had two wonderful roommates. Also one horrible roommate, and a couple who were nice but who I didn’t really become friends with. But the two wonderful roommates and I became very good friends, and we had a lot of fun together.

And then, as often happened back in the days where there was no internet, and where people’s phone numbers changed every time they moved, the three of us lost touch. 🙁

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about both of them. I was pretty sure I could track down roommate #1, but had no idea how to contact roommate #2. I’d tried to look for her several times over the years, with no success. I decided to try to find them later, since I was super busy with edits and the day job (that was the week I had 50 meetings at work…yes, 50).

Two days later, roommate #1 sent me a message! We set up a Zoom call, and before we met I poked around and to my tremendous surprise I found roommate #2! We hadn’t talked in over 30 years, so it felt weird to call her out of the blue, even though I really, really wanted to. I decided to talk with roommate #1 about this, since we already had a Zoom session scheduled. While we were on Zoom we sent a message to roommate #2, who jumped on the call with us and said she had just been thinking about trying to find us too! It was SO great to see them both!

I am so very, very happy that we’ve reconnected! It’s really funny that we all were thinking about each other around the same time. 🙂

Me, right before I started college. Isn’t my hair awesome?!?

This has made me think about all the things we did back in college. I was only at that school (the University of Colorado, in Boulder) for two years before moving to Florida, but we packed a lot into those two years!

My life now is significantly less interesting, which in some ways may be for the best. 🙂 Back in the spring I thought I’d have a ton more time to do things since I’d be working from home for the foreseeable future. I was going to exercise every day, clean and organize everything in my house, learn a language (or two!), write a bunch of short stories and several novels, take up painting, work in the yard, read, knit/crochet/sew lots of things…it was a long list.

I’ve done some of what I planned. I reorganized part of my office. I listened to about 10 Spanish lessons. I wrote first drafts of one-and-a-half novels. I pulled weeds. I read one book, and started many others. I got out my basket of yarn and moved it around my house for a few months. But it turned out that I didn’t really have that much more time than I used to, and I didn’t realize that living through a pandemic would affect me in weird ways. Like: there was a stretch in the summer where I didn’t want to work on any of my writing projects. I didn’t feel down, but now I realize I was sulking about the pandemic. I didn’t know how much I’d hate running with a mask on. I didn’t realize that getting rid of my 6-minute commute and whatever errands I’d normally run really didn’t add up to that much more extra time.

Now that I’m eight (!!!) months into spending most of my time at home, I’m more used to all of this, and appear to have accepted the lack of excitement in my life. But it’s made me look at things a little differently. After this is all over, I’m planning on going on lots and lots of vacations. 🙂 But I’ve also been thinking about what’s important to me, and giving thought to how I can make my life better, both in larger ways (more vacations!) and in smaller ones.

Jasper helped with this puzzle!
For example, for the past couple of months I’ve made myself do something around the house every weekend—but it has to be something I wouldn’t normally do. One weekend I cleaned the radiator covers in the living room. Another time I cleaned and reorganized some of the kitchen cabinets. My goal is to make this a habit that I keep even after the pandemic, since this is the kind of thing I would normally put off. Doing everything all at once feels overwhelming, but doing a little bit each week is totally manageable. Plus now it’s easier to find (some) things since the house is (somewhat) more organized. 🙂

I’ve also tried to make myself take time every once in a while to do something fun. I realize this seems pretty obvious 🙂 but I tend to fill my time with work. Even if the work is fun (like taking a writing workshop, or editing an anthology, or whatever), it’s not good to fill up all of my time. I’ve been trying to read more, which you’d think would be easy to do, but it’s hard for me to sit down and read without feeling like there’s some task I should be doing. I’ve had better luck with jigsaw puzzles, although with those there’s always the danger that I’ll get sucked in and not stop for a couple of hours. Maybe I’ll eventually get to the basket of yarn I keep moving around…

I have been doing more editing than writing for the past few months. Hauntings is the latest anthology I’ve edited—completely by coincidence, it was published on my birthday. 🙂 It’s the first issue in The Haunted Anthology, which is a new series—the plan is to release an issue every fall. Next year’s issue will be about haunted places—I originally planned to make the theme about haunted houses, then decided to make that a bit broader and see what the authors come up with.

I’m planning on wrapping up edits for a few more collections in the next few weeks, and have a couple of short stories that are due this month. After I get all that out of the way I’ll get back to the next novel (which doesn’t have a title yet). I finished the first draft in June, but haven’t looked at it since then—this is the manuscript where I wrote 17,732 words in one day. Seriously. I still can’t believe I did that, and I never, ever want to write that much in one day again. 🙂

I’m looking forward to getting back to this project, but am even more excited about my next get-together with my two long-lost college roommates!!! ❤️❤️❤️

Adding to the sum of light

I grew up thinking our world was on its way to being like the original Star Trek series, with everyone trying to do the right thing and make the galaxy a better place. That show wasn’t perfect, of course. I remember being maybe 8 and firmly saying “boldly go where no one has gone before,” since even at that age I recognized some of the flaws in the show. You could certainly argue, however, that for a television series that launched in 1966, it was ahead of its time. Gene Roddenberry, the producer, certainly did his best to incorporate themes of sexism, racism, and even the Vietnam war (here’s an article from 1968 where he mentions this). My bringing this up is not to focus on what the show didn’t do, but what it did do. Sure, Kirk would occasionally violate the prime directive, especially if an attractive woman was involved. 🙂 But an underlying theme of ethics, and doing the right thing, carried through the show.

I’ve since learned that the world is not barreling toward utopia after all. Being a determined optimist, however, I still have hope that we’ll someday get to a world where we all do our darnedest to do the right thing all the time. The recent world excitement has been horrifying, depressing, and, at the same time, heartening. I would much, much rather see people peacefully protest because they care about the issues, not because they care about the issues and got fired up by the catalyst of the brutal and cruel murder of George Floyd. But while this event was horrific, it was amazing to watch how people across the U.S. and around the world joined together. It’s been even more moving to see how many people feel compelled to protest, even though they know this puts them at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, because standing up is the right thing to do.

I am grateful that the two writing projects I’ve been promoting recently both contribute to charity. The proceeds from The Golden Door all go to the ACLU and Doctors Without Borders. The idea for this collection came from watching what was going on at the southern border of the U.S. While the awful way some of the people seeking asylum has been less in the news lately, it’s still happening. Some of the children who were separated from their families at the border will almost certainly never see their parents again, and the fact that this happened at all is so incredibly wrong. This anthology has a broader focus than just U.S. immigration, as I wanted people to think about the topic of immigration in a larger sense. It includes stories like Tonya D. Price’s “Spy in the Sky,” which is set during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, “Ke’s Symphony,” by Lesley L. Smith, which is about beings from one planet who seek refuge on another, as well as stories like Hedi Framm-Anton’s “La Despedida,” which is about a woman from Honduras who goes to the U.S. because she can’t make enough money at home to pay the fees the local gang demands.

The other charity project I’m involved with right now is the Young Adult Charity MegaBundle, which is only available for a few more days. Half of all the proceeds for this bundle of 28 books (yes, there are really 28 books!) go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization which offers free writing workshops to children to help them learn to think and write with clarity. As part of Mighty Writers’ efforts curing the pandemic, they are also delivering food to families in need.

There’s a line from the movie The Year of Living Dangerously that I think of quite often: Add your light to the sum of light. It’s paraphrased from something Tolstoy wrote. In the movie, it goes like this:

Well, I support the view that you just don’t think about the major issues. You do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you. Add your light to the sum of light.

The two charity projects I’m involved with won’t change the world. One person attending one protest won’t either. But everything adds up, as we’ve seen with the recent protests about racial justice, both in the U.S. and across the world. Let’s all work together to make the world a better place.

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