Zombie Apocalypse: Day 32

I didn’t realize the zombie apocalypse would involve me spending day after day in my own house…

My days now consist of entertaining the dogs, cleaning and organizing the house, and washing my hands. Okay, I don’t actually wash my hands that much because I spend 90% of my waking hours in my office where I am, as far as I’m aware, safe from both viruses and mosquitoes. (I know you’re thinking: It’s April, there aren’t any mosquitoes in Colorado yet. But just like every other year of my life, they are coming for me. I just don’t know exactly when. I do, however, know that they will find me well before they find any of you.)

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has impacted my writing. For a while it was really hard to focus on anything at all. I still remember fretfully looking at the Johns Hopkins map when the total worldwide numbers were around 30k. 🙁 Things got really exciting when my sisters and I helped accelerate our high risk parents’ move to an independent living community two months ahead of schedule. Fortunately we got them moved a few days before the state stay-at-home order, and now they’re as close to bubble wrapped as we can make them.

Once I was able to (mostly) focus again, I did what anyone would do, and published an anthology! 😀

Note that this is a charity anthology – all proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders and the ACLU.

The Golden Door has been in the works for a long, long time. It went through many strange hurdles, and holds the record for the most time it’s taken me to put together a collection from start to finish. (My goal is to never let any other anthology break this record.) The title comes from “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus to raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the full text:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The Golden Door was inspired by events at the southern border of the U.S., but I asked the authors to think more broadly. Here’s part of the text from the call for submissions:

Show the impact on individuals—and/or the world—when a country turns away immigrants, or changes the rules so that people who immigrated to a country become forced to return to where they came from—even if they were small children at the time.

Think about events throughout history, like during WWII when the U.S. turned away a ship carrying roughly 900 Jews during WWII—254 of whom died in the Holocaust. Or the U.S. Congress rejecting a bill which would have allowed 20,000 Jewish refugee children to enter the U.S. Or Italy blocking a ship carrying immigrants from all Italian ports.

Ancient Rome welcomed a number of immigrants, but didn’t do as well with the Goths, who were instrumental in the defeat of the Roman Empire.

Other options include writing about the contributions immigrants make to a country, or how the culture changes (whether for better or worse) when migrants are allowed in a country.

My story in this collection is set in 1910 in the Pennsylvanian town that my parents grew up in, and is loosely based on both my Irish/Scottish and my Slovakian great-grandparents.

I’m hoping to use my time in lockdown to get a lot of writing done. We’ll see how that goes!

Jasper and Rosie were initially confused about why we’re home all day every day, but they quickly adapted and are taking advantage of our availability, as any good border collie would. 🙂


Sign up for my newsletter!

Past and Future Jamies

I’m not sure exactly when this started, but sometime in the past six months or so I started thinking about Past and Future Jamie. Sometimes I’ll think: “I could do that thing, but I don’t wanna right now.” Then she puts off the thing. Eventually she becomes Future Jamie, who thinks: “Thanks a lot, Past Jamie, you lazy jerk.”

Obviously there are times when I really don’t want to do the thing, and I don’t do it—and that’s okay. But sometimes it just takes a little more effort, then I get it done. And then: Future Jamie is happy! Time has been saved! Efficiency created! And on those more-frequent-than-I’d-like occasions where I think I’ll have lots of time in the future, but find out that is not the case, this can be the difference between the thing getting done on time—or at all.

This morning was a good, albeit simple example. I helped Jasper do his stretches (Rosie did them too, because she likes doing things—and because treats were involved). Then I took Jasper for a walk (okay, I worked on a jigsaw puzzle first, but that gave the dogs time to play with each other), did some laundry, and thought: I could vacuum, but I don’t wanna. I’ll do it later. Then I remembered: Future Jamie is going to have to vacuum later, and she’s going to be in the middle of something and might not want to stop. So the house might not get vacuumed at all. Or: maybe she’ll stop whatever she’s in the middle of, but the whole thing will take her more time because she’ll have to context switch, and I’m not actually in the middle of anything right now.

So I vacuumed the house, and then: it was done! I was happy that I didn’t have a chore hanging over my head, I knew Future Jamie would be happy (and she was), and Jasper was happy because he got to play vacuum ball (which just means playing with his toys while I vacuum). It was a win-win!

Morning playtime!

I did not realize that the other human member of the household was going to install a new kitchen sink faucet, take a bunch of dishes out of the kitchen cupboard, and rerun the water line to the ice maker in the fridge…so now part of my afternoon is involving cleaning cupboards, washing dishes, and moving things around. But: just imagine how I’d feel if I had to do all of this and still had to vacuum? Thanks, Past Jamie! 🙂

This concept comes up a lot these days in relation to writing-related tasks. I used to be a very productive procrastinator, where instead of working on the thing I was supposed to be doing, I’d do lots of other things. That way I had lots of accomplishments, so while I knew I hadn’t done the one thing, I still had the satisfaction of having finished other things. But…eventually Future Jamie would have to pay the price.

All of this is part of why I’m so happy to have a publishing schedule for 2020. My schedule is not yet complete—it has all of my anthology deadlines, and due dates for the short stories I have deadlines for (I sneakily set the due dates a month before the stories are actually due…that’ll fool me, right?). But I don’t have deadlines for the three novels I plan on writing this year because I’m just not sure how to handle them. My guess is that the first novel (these are in a series) will take the longest because I’ll be working out the characters and world details, but I really don’t know for sure. I’ve decided to think about this as “get these written as soon as possible and no procrastinating!”

Before jumping in to that project, I need to focus on getting things wrapped up on the current anthologies I’m working on. Some of these tasks could have been done a while ago if Past Jamie had learned her lesson earlier, and some became more time-critical after my friend DeAnna and I decided to set a firm publishing schedule for the Amazing Monster Tales anthology series we co-edit. But I’m staying on track, and am excited about sticking to my schedule for 2020—and about making Future Jamie happy. 🙂

Rosie is very good at focusing.


Sign up for my newsletter!

Time to play!

Here’s more evidence that 2019 did not go as planned.

That’s from my very cluttered personal Goodreads profile, which I keep separate from my author Goodreads profile so you don’t have to wade through the clutter of my 51 custom bookshelves. (Yes, there really are 51…I just counted.) But because I can’t help being an optimist, I’ve just signed up for another lofty goal!

Here’s to never giving up! 🙂

Speaking of never giving up, Jasper is now signed up for regular physical therapy visits in town. He has some issues with his back, as well as hip dysplasia. For a while we were worried he’d need a hip replacement, but the orthopedists decided his pain is from his back, not his hips. He’s also been compensating for pain for years, probably for long before we even realized anything was wrong, so he puts more weight on his front legs than his back. Right now we’re doing stretchy exercises, acupuncture, and yesterday his new physical therapist also did ultrasound and laser therapy (we all wore protective goggles, even Jasper!).

Jasper getting laser therapy, wearing special dog goggles!

Jasper is doing a LOT better than he was a month ago, when we had two days where he couldn’t lie down on his own. Literally—we had to pick him up and put him down on his side. We still aren’t totally sure what he did at that point (he did see two vets at the time), but we’re happy to be back to where we were in the fall. This is not, however, where we were this time last year. Jasper took a turn for the worse this past August, which is why he saw the orthopedists and started his initial physical therapy program at Colorado State University. We’ve switched physical therapists only because it’s almost an hour and a half drive to CSU. We can’t fix everything that’s wrong with him, but hopefully we can help make him feel better!

I’m currently working on my schedule for 2020, since this is The Year of the Schedule. 🙂 It’s a little overwhelming because there are a zillion things I want to do, so I’m trying to focus on categories of work instead of look at the big (and panic-inducing) picture. The high-level categories are:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Publishing
  • Audio
  • Marketing
  • Organization

Looks pretty straightforward, right? 🙂

There are obviously a lot more details involved in each category, but it definitely helps to think of these as separate chunks of work. For example, I can put together my writing schedule separately from my editing schedule, then look at both together and adjust as needed. But if I think about all my deadlines at once, it’s hard to focus are there are just way too many details.

The other thing I’m trying very, very hard to do is to plan in buffer time AND stick to my schedule and not allow myself to procrastinate because I know there’s buffer time. 🙂 Instead, my intention is to get ahead on everything and use the buffer time for surprise events that pop up, like when Jasper couldn’t lie down on his own for two days.

And, of course, I need to factor in time to play!

Early morning play time.


Sign up for my newsletter!